|Updated: 4/11/2007 4:49 pm
||Published: 4/11/2007 4:49 pm
Dietary fiber is classified as either soluble (SOLLl-yuh-bul) or insoluble, and each group can have positive benefits to your health regardless of your age. Soluble fiber binds with cholesterol (kuh-LES-tuh-rawl)-containing compounds in the intestines, thereby lowering your blood-cholesterol level. It can be found in fruits, barley, oats, and legumes (LEG-yewms), or plant-bearing pods, such as peas and beans. Insoluble fiber combines with water, making fecal (FEE-kul) matter bulkier and softer, enabling it to pass more quickly and easily through the intestines. A diet high in insoluble fiber can help prevent or reduce the risk of a number of health problems, including constipation, hemorrhoids (HEM-eh-royds), as well as colon and rectal cancer. Foods rich in insoluble fiber are cereals, grains, vegetables, and bran, especially wheat bran. Although most experts believe that the average person can benefit from an increase in dietary fiber, there is some disagreement about exactly how much and which types should be consumed. Most people consume about 16 grams a day, but a better goal would probably be 20 to 35 grams, emphasizing fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, and whole grains. An average day's meal might include a fiber-rich cereal for breakfast, a sandwich made with whole wheat bread and lettuce and a piece of fruit for lunch, one or two servings of vegetables with dinner, and a piece of fruit for an evening snack. As always, you should consult a physician before making any major changes in your diet.