Why you must fill up on fiber

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Fiber may not contain any nutrient, but you need it just the same to keep your body in good shape. Eating a  fruit or munching on oatmeal cookies won’t cut it though.


According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, the recommended daily dietary fiber intake must be between 20 to 25 grams a day. Five fruits, the number that equals one serving, contains only 3 grams of fiber.

To meet the requirement, you’ll have to consume about 40 fruits a day.

“The reason we are advocating high-fiber intake for Filipinos is because, based on the results of our recent National Nutrition Survey, we found out that there has been a drastic reduction in consumption of fruits and vegetables,” said

Dr. Cecilia Cristina Santos-Acuin, chief science research specialist at the Nutritional Assessment and Monitoring Division of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute.

Acuin, who spoke at the launch of Metamucil, the psyllium-based fiber supplement from Procter & Gamble, said that fiber is a form of carbohydrate that the body does not digest. When consumed, it goes to the gut and adds bulk to ease bowel movements.


Regulate sugar use

While it does not contain nutrients, fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugar, slowing down its absorption.

“It traps the sugar molecules so that the release of sugar in your gastrointestine is slower - that’s good news for diabetics,” she said.

It also slows down fat molecules, she continued, so that the body also slows down the way it absorbs fat. That’s welcome news for people trying to cut down on fat intake.

Maintaining a high-fiber diet will eventually promote digestive health, help lower cholesterol to promote heart health, regulate blood glucose levels and keep you full between meals, thus cutting down on your daily calorie consumption.


Fiber types

There are two main types of fiber, Acuin said, and both are beneficial: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble, when mixed with water, forms a gel. This is responsible for slowing down the absorption of sugar and fat. That’s the reason gooey, sticky vegetables, such as okra, are high in fiber.

Other good sources of soluble fiber include oats and oatmeal, fruits, barley and legumes.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water but adds bulk to the stool to help food pass more quickly through the digestive system, and reduce the risk for hemorrhoids and constipation. Examples of these are wheat bran, some vegetables and whole grains.

 “I would advise people to mix their food and get their fiber from a variety of sources. Since we normally choose food for its taste, not for its fiber content, add a fiber supplement on times when you have low-fiber diets,” Acuin said.

Lipi Banerjee, P&G country marketing manager, said that Metamucil, its fiber supplement brand that has been in the market abroad for 30 years, allows you to indulge once in a while without the guilt.

“Filipinos are famous for being foodies. You really enjoy everything you eat. We want to celebrate that and do a  bit more by making every little thing you eat, even snacks, slightly more healthy with Metamucil,” Banerjee said.

Metamucil comes in two flavors: orange and wild berry. Unlike psyllium supplementations of the past, both flavors taste pleasant and are easily swallowed.

But can someone actually overdose on fiber?

Not exactly, Acuin said.

At worst, she said, consuming too much fiber will make you gassy.  Eating too much camote has the same effect.

When the fiber traps the sugar, this process slows down the sugar in your gut. It then gives time for the sugar to interact with the bacteria in your gut until it begins to ferment.

“The fermentation process is very similar to that of beer-making. It produces bubbles and gas. If you consume too much fiber, it will produce gas. That’s normal,” Acuin said.

Fiber supplementation is best taken with food, Acuin said.


However, people taking medication should be cautious. A time interval of 30 minutes to an hour should always be observed. The fiber, she said, can also trap the medication, reducing the drug’s efficacy.

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