The Whole Story: Whole Grains & Fiber
When it comes to understanding the importance of whole grains and fiber in a healthy diet, it’s easy to get bogged down by all of the details. So to help you understand a bit better, I’ve put together a quick list of frequently asked questions on fiber and whole grains. You’ll be a grain expert after you read this!
Q: What is fiber?
A: Fiber is a part of plant foods that cannot be digested by the human body. Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans/legumes.
The fact that fiber can’t be absorbed by the body is part of why it is so good for our health. The primary function of fiber is help to absorb water and create bulk in our digestive system, which speeds up the passage of food and helps to prevent constipation. But years of research has shown that a high fiber diet also reduces risk of cancer, is beneficial to heart health, and helps you feel fuller between meals which is particularly helpful when trying to lose weight.
Q: What is a whole grain?
A: A whole grain is a grain that is completely intact and has not been processed to destroy its natural form. A whole grain contains all three parts of the grain kernel including the germ, endosperm and bran. Some examples of whole grains include corn, oats, whole wheat, rye, barley and quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”).
Whole grains provide fiber, varying in amount from grain to grain. Consuming the fiber from whole grains may help reduce the risk of certain chronic disease and contribute to maintaining a healthy weight. Kellogg’s FiberPlus™ cereals and bars contain whole grains and are an excellent source of fiber too.
Q: What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?
A: Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that is able to blend with water to form a gel, and is able to do just that in our digestive system. And because of this characteristic, soluble fiber is particularly good at absorbing cholesterol and allowing it to pass through the body, which helps reduce LDL cholesterol levels (the bad kind) in the blood. Foods that contain soluble fiber include oatmeal, beans, apples, pears, dried plums and sweet potatoes.
Insoluble fiber is a type of fiber that can’t be dissolved in water. Instead, insoluble fiber acts like a sponge and absorbs fluids – up to 15 times its own weight in water! This is the kind of fiber that is often referred to as “roughage” since it is so great at providing bulk and speeding up the transit of food through the digestive system. Foods that contain insoluble fiber include wheat bran, corn bran, vegetables and fruit.
And which type of fiber is best, you might ask? The answer – both! We need both types of fiber in our diet for better health. Imagine the concept of cleaning your kitchen floor. Do you only sweep it, or do you only mop it with soapy water? We know that for really clean floors, we need to both sweep with a broom, and then mop with soapy water. So for your body, think of insoluble fiber as the broom (since its rough), and soluble fiber as the soapy water (since it absorbs dirt/waste). Eating both will keep you healthy and clean as a whistle!
Q: How much whole grains and fiber should I eat in one day?
A: The recommendation for adults is 25-35g of fiber daily. If you are not close to this amount now, start to slowly increase your fiber intake over the course of a week. Add an extra 5g of fiber daily until you reach the target range of 25-35g, but make sure to increase your water intake too to prevent any discomfort or constipation.
When you are shopping at BI-LO, look for foods that receive our Good Source of Fiber and Whole Grain nutritional tags to help you easily choose these items on the shelf.