Fiber is fab: Let me count the ways

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Dear Pharmacist: My doctor asked me to get more fiber in my diet. What are some health benefits? And what are good ways to incorporate it into my daily life?— D.C., Palm Beach

Dear D.C.: Fiber is fabulous! Technically, fiber is a carbohydrate, and there is the soluble kind and the insoluble kind. Both exist in the same food. The insoluble sort is not absorbed into the bloodstream during digestion.

It's a little confusing but, generally speaking, good sources of soluble fiber include bran, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables. These slow down digestion and that slows down the release of blood sugar. This stabilizes your appetite by quelling blood sugar spikes. Fiber may reduce your risk for complications of Type 2 diabetes.

Fiber has been scientifically shown to lower LDL cholesterol, without adversely affecting HDL cholesterol. This gives you an excellent advantage at reducing the risk of heart disease. Think of it this way, it helps scrub your arteries clean.

Insoluble fiber, also called cellulose, will also scrub your colon clean. It will literally push waste material through the intestine. Be aware that fiber will drive out your medication faster, too, so separate administration of fiber from oral medications. Women should consume about 25 grams per day, and men 35 grams.

Don't be fooled by foods labeled as having "added fiber," implying that they are nutritious. The fiber I suggest is found naturally in organic fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and beans. Also in peas, broccoli, prunes, apples, oranges, carrots, berries, legumes and potatoes. Switching white bread for whole grain (not whole wheat) will up your fiber intake, and this is fine assuming you're not grain- or gluten-sensitive, or on the paleo or Phase One diet.

Dietary supplements offer a fiber advantage because they're easy, but be careful you don't end up a pill-junkie. Psyllium husk supplements are sold at pharmacies and natural health food stores nationwide.

This is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Go to SuzyCohen.com.

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