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Fiber: The Stress Fighter

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Fiber.  I know it's good for me, doc, but how do I get enough of it?  Do I have to eat the wrapper off my bran muffin?  Perhaps bark chips and kitty litter? 

Luckily, its a lot easier than you thought. More importantly, if you do eat enough fiber you can help make yourself a lot more bullet-proof to stress.

Fiber: A Stress Defense

 

Fiber is the non-digestible part of the cell wall found in all plant materials, such as fruit, grains, and vegetables.  It cannot be found in any animal products, such as meat, milk, or eggs.  Fiber is inert, and has no caloric value, and thus could be said to do nothing.  In fact, fiber never even enters the body in the sense of getting into the blood stream.  Not unlike a swallowed plastic button, fiber leaves the bowels largely unaffected by the stomach’s attempts to digest it.  But fiber is also one of the most powerful, if often underrated tools we have to defend our bodies from stress.

In the stomach, fiber makes the digestive juices work harder.  The stomach acid burns itself out on the inert fiber, and the stomach takes several hours to empty.  As a result, you are more ulcer-proof, and will feel fuller longer.  In the bowels, fiber, as long as it is taken with sufficient water, will prevent constipation, and help protect you from inflammations such as colitis and diverticulitis. The U.S. and Canadian Cancer Societies have recommended we eat more fiber, to reduce the incidence of cancers of the digestive system.  The Heart associations have endorsed fibers such as found in oat bran as a means to reduce circulating cholesterol, which is of course implicated in heart disease. 

Fiber also makes the body work harder and longer to extract sugars out of our foods, meaning that blood sugar levels tend not to have such high and low swings.  Not only does this reduce the hypoglycaemic urgency of a quick sugar fix a couple of hours after a meal, but it helps diabetics reduce their intake of insulin by a few units a day. I have even seen borderline adult diabetics come off their pills when they switched over to a diet with exactly the same number of calories, but with a high fiber load. 

The overweight dieter also benefits from increasing dietary fiber.  Because the stomach stays full for about four hours after a high fiber meal, there is less room to accommodate post-prandial nibblers.  After all, if one lived next to a field of sugar cane, one could eat endless sugar and not get fat, because the sugar comes with such a high natural fiber content.  When that fiber is refined out of the sugar, and put into candies, then huge quantities of sugar can be crammed into the same space, and dissolves almost instantly into the bloodstream, causing obesity.  As an added bonus to help the obese lose weight, a high fiber diet will carry out about 150 calories of undigested food each day, which helps fiber fans stay slim.

Fiber is a great help in fighting stress, as well as many other conditions.  Try to have at least 35 grams of it per day, or more if you can.  Remember you can get the whole regimen of fiber from your favorite foods: Bran cereal, oatmeal, baked beans in tomato sauce, corn, peas, potatoes, apples and bananas are all foods people enjoy, but are often avoided by people who are trying to lose weight.  Think again.  As long as you don't garnish these foods with butter, margarine, or fattening sauces they will actually help you stay full, and lose weight.  Remember, you needn't eat grated pine cones to win against stress. 

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