The Number One Health Problem in America

Do a Google search for the “number one health problem” and you will dig up tens of thousands of sites claiming that the #1 health problem in America is such evils as- substance abuse, obesity, stress, Aids, lack of sleep, heart disease, mental health, etc, While I agree that these are serious problems, with far ranging effects, I believe the number one health problem in America is lack of fiber. The US Surgeon General recommends 20-35 grams of dietary fiber a day, but with the average intake of only 10-15 grams, most Americans aren’t even getting half the minimum requirements. It’s my opinion that insufficient dietary fiber impairs the health of more Americans than any other concern.

Dietary fiber appears to reduce the risk of developing various conditions, including: acne, appendicitis, arteriosclerosis, arthritis, atherosclerosis, bowel problems, cancer, chemical poisoning, chronic fatigue syndrome, circulatory problems, constipation, depression, diabetes, diarrhea, diverticular disease, edema, endometriosis, fibrocystic breast disease, gallbladder problems, gallstones, gout, heart disease, heavy metal poisoning, hemorrhoids, hiatal hernia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypoglycemia, impotence, incontinence, inflammatory bowel disease, iron deficiency, irritable bowel syndrome, kidney stones, menopause, obesity, polyps, prostate enlargement, senility, sinusitis, suppressed immune system, tooth decay, ulcers, and varicose veins. As you can see, insufficient fiber may contribute to a variety of health problems.

Dietary fiber is a virtually indigestible substance that is found mainly in the outer layers of plants (essentially the cell walls). Only plants produce fiber. No animal products contain fiber, not even bones or eggshells. The best sources of fiber are whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes (peas, beans, lentils, peanuts), fruits, and vegetables. Fiber is often removed from foods during processing. Foods made from white flour are poor sources of fiber. Fruit and vegetable juices usually contain virtually no fiber, as the juice has been squeezed out of the plant material and the fiber left behind. Yet, freezing, drying, canning, and cooking do not significantly change the fiber content of most foods.

Fiber is a unique type of carbohydrate that passes through the digestive system practically unchanged. Fiber is divided into two categories according to its characteristics and its effect on the body: insoluble fibers, which do not dissolve in water, and soluble fibers, which do.

Insoluble fiber– Insoluble fiber draws water into your intestines and helps to maintain regularity. It does not dissolve in water and moves through your digestive system quickly and largely intact. As food travels through your intestines more quickly and is more diluted with water, exposure to potential carcinogens is decreased. Insoluble fiber helps keep you regular by bulking up the stool. Good sources include wheat bran, whole-grain cereals and breads, and many vegetables.

Soluble fiber– Soluble fiber forms a gel-like material in water. It helps to restore regularity and lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber binds up bile acids and disposes of them. Good sources include oats, beans, peas, and many types of fruit.

Don’t start a high-fiber diet overnight. It’s best to start slowly, especially if you tend to become constipated. Introduce high-fiber foods gradually, during the month. Also, it’s important to drink more fluids when you increase the amount of fiber you eat. You should drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

Disclaimer: This article is for entertainment purposes only, and is not intended for use as diagnosis or treatment of a health problem or as a substitute for consulting a licensed medical professional.