You're Better Off Eating a Cardboard Box

Dear Health Conscious Reader,

The other day G.S. came to my office for a visit.

I won’t get into his personal medical issue, but the subject of fiber came up.

He said, “Dr. Sears, I’m getting all the fiber I need. Every morning I have my whole wheat toast or a big bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats.”

I’m telling you this because it’s kind of typical. My patients believe they’re getting the right kind of fiber from whole grains.

The truth is all fiber is not created equal. You could call a cardboard box “fiber,” because it’s cellulose and your body wouldn’t digest it.

But it’s not the type of fiber nature intended for you to have in your body.

There are different types of fiber. Some are natural to your diet, and others – like the fibers you get from grains – are not natural to your diet.

But they can all be put into two different categories: “soluble” and “insoluble.”

Soluble fiber binds with fatty acids in your body. It stays in your stomach longer, allowing sugar to be released and absorbed more slowly. It helps lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease. It also helps regulate blood sugar, which is helpful for those with diabetes.

Insoluble fiber helps move bulk through your intestines. It helps you stay “regular” and helps prevent constipation. It also helps move toxins through your colon more quickly.

Both soluble and insoluble fiber can’t be digested. So they’re not absorbed into your bloodstream.

Instead of being used for energy, fiber is excreted from your body.

Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with liquid, while insoluble fiber does not. Insoluble fiber passes through our intestines largely intact.

When it comes to fiber, I prefer to always use what is

natural. I’m not comfortable with products that add psyllium and call it fiber just because you can’t digest it.

The real solution is to use the fiber we’ve had in our diet since primordial times. Before grains were domesticated.

The mainstream medical approach on this is misguided. You shouldn’t be eating a lot of cereal or taking grain-based laxative products which we’re told over and over is the best way to care for the digestive tract.

In fact, fiber from grains found in many breakfast cereals could be increasing your risk of getting diabetes. The high glycemic index of most cereals, breads, and pastas makes them poor food choices.

The quality of fiber started going down around the time our native ancestors began harvesting cereal grains. Grain products have only been around for a few thousand years. They were not our original source of fiber.

You need to get your fiber from fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Nature has given us all of the natural fiber we’ll ever need.

Here are some of the best sources of natural fiber:

  • Vegetables:Vegetables should be your number one source of fiber. Just remember to eat the skins and edible seeds. They contain the good stuff. My favorite vegetable sources of fiber include broccoli, spinach, squash, cabbage, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts. Eat them along with high-quality protein at every meal.
  • Nuts: One of the best natural high-fiber foods. A handful of nuts everyday makes for an easy fiber-filled snack. Don’t let the low-fat police scare you away from nuts. Nuts with the most amount of fiber in them include almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, and Brazil nuts.
  • Fruit: My favorite fiber-rich fruits include berries, pears, apples, mangos, and oranges. When you eat fruit, leave the skins on. It’s a major source of fiber. Berries especially have fiber-rich skin. You can also eat their small seeds. And considering how sweet and tasty they are, they have a surprisingly low glycemic index.
  • Legumes: Green beans are one of the best sources of fiber. Try and stick with green instead of the dried beans. They are a superior source of fiber.
    Remember, it’s important that you drink plenty water in order to get the most benefit your dietary fiber. Without enough water, fiber can’t do its thing.

    Also, be sure to eat your fiber a little bit at a time throughout the day. Eating it all at once can lower its benefits.

To Your Good Health,

Al Sears, MD