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Oats are high in soluble fiber. What that means is that oatmeal acts like a sponge which absorbs cholesterol and removes it from your system.
As little as 3 grams of fiber has been shown to reduce cholesterol, specifically LDL, which is low density cholesterol. This equates to about 1 1/2 cups of oatmeal a day. The US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) suggests 5-10 grams of soluable fiber every day and 20-35 grams of total fiber per day.
Types of Fiber
Dietary fiber consists of nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants. This includes plant nonstarch polysaccharides (for example, cellulose, pectin, gums, hemicellulose, and fibers contained in oat and wheat bran), oligosaccharides, lignin, and some resistant starch.
Functional fiber consists of isolated, nondigestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects in humans. This includes nondigestible plant (for example, resistant starch, pectin, and gums), chitin, chitosan, or commercially produced (for example, resistant starch, polydextrose, inulin, and indigestible dextrins) carbohydrates.
Total fiber is the sum of dietary fiber and functional fiber. It’s not important to differentiate between which forms of each of these fibers you are getting in your diet. Your total fiber is what matters.
Fiber as a Carbohydrate
You may also hear fiber referred to as bulk or roughage. Call it what you want, but always remember that fiber is an essential part of everyone’s diet. While fiber does fall under the category of carbohydrates, in comparison, it does not provide the same number of calories, nor is it processed the way that other sources of carbohydrates are.
- This difference can be seen among the two categories that fiber is divided into: soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. Sources of soluble fiber are oats, legumes (beans, peas, and soybeans), apples, bananas, berries, barely, some vegetables, and psylluim.
- Insoluble fiber increases the movement of material through your digestive tract and increases your stool bulk. Sources of insoluble fiber are whole wheat foods, bran, nuts, seeds, and the skin of some fruits and vegetables.
Fiber’s Effect on Weight Loss
There is some evidence that “bulking up” could lead to slimming down. In a recent study of more than 1700 overweight and obese men and women, those with the highest fiber intake had the greatest weight loss over 24 months. Results from the Continuing Survey of Food Intakes by Individuals (CSFII) from 1994 -1996 also supported the relationship between a high-fiber intake and lower body weight.
One of the reasons that fiber may have an impact on body weight is its ability to slow the movement of food through the intestines. The gel-like substance that soluble fibers form when they dissolve in water causes things to swell and move slower in the intestines. This increase in time that foods stay in the intestines has been shown to reduce hunger feelings and overall food intake. It has also been shown to decrease the number of calories that are actually absorbed from the ingested food.
One study showed an increase in the number of calories that were excreted in the stools when high-fiber psyllium gum-based crackers were given in comparison to low-fiber crackers. Whenever fewer calories are taken in, or more are excreted, weight loss will generally occur.
Fiber for controlling diabetes
A high-fiber diet may be just what the doctor ordered to get your blood sugars under control. Keeping our blood sugars stable is a goal that we would all benefit from. If you don’t have type 2 diabetes, this could be the way to prevent it. If you do have it, this could be the way to keep it under control. The best time to address type 2 diabetes is before it has developed.
Research has shown that high-fiber diets can help prevent this form of diabetes. The most recent study on done on overweight and obese men and women without diabetes showed reductions in blood sugar and insulin with the use of a high soluble fiber supplement.
A German clinical trial reported that eating fiber-enriched bread for only three days improved insulin sensitivity in overweight and obese women by 8%. If a diet intervention this small can have that great of an impact, you can imagine what years of following a high-fiber diet, filled with vegetables, fruits and whole grains would do.
The good news for those with diabetes is that increasing your fiber now can also prevent long-term complications from diabetes. Soluble fiber has been found to produce significant reductions in blood sugar in 33 of 50 studies testing it. In clinical intervention trials ranging from two to 17 weeks, consumption of fiber was shown to decrease insulin requirements in people with type 2 diabetes. If you have ever had to inject yourself with insulin, you can appreciate how much easier and less painful it would be to increase your fiber intake to avoid the need for insulin injections.
Oatmeal: Power Food
There you have it, oatmeal is a power food that can help you lose weight and improve your health. I like it because it’s nice to have something hot in the morning, especially during the Winter. I don’t always have time to make the old fashioned steel cut oats, but I still get the benefit. I buy Nature’s Path Instant Organic Hot Oatmeal. I get the convenience of instant oatmeal that’s a great source of fiber. Each packet has 4 grams of fiber and range from 150 to 200 calories per serving.
- Betty Kovacs, MS, RD, MedicineNet.com
- R. Morgan Griffin, Webmd.com
- Marin Gazzaniga, Healthmsn.com