The Second Half: My fling with fiber
By Kathleen D. Tresemer
I love those commercials for FiberOne products. Here’s this dignified guy, standing in a grocery store and speaking with a hint of some cool accent, and he’s pushing… wait for it…FIBER! (Laugh out loud here!)
Fiber conjures visions of foods that have texture—like shredded wheat or raw broccoli—or grainy stuff that you mixed in water to make a slurry and then drank the vile mess. The primary function of fiber was always to make you poop with consistency and regularity, helping if you were either too loose or bound up. EEEW! So a really dignified man persuading people to enjoy the taste of fiber—in public!—strikes me as funny. Take the lady who eats a whole day’s worth of fiber in a couple of minutes because she can’t taste it in the delicious yogurt. Hilarious!
I assume half-a-dozen 12-year-old boys got together and wrote those commercials. Like the one with the guy who puts on all of those silly disguises—only a 12-year-old boy would think of that.
Then, it happened—I was in the store and saw a cereal called Caramel Delight. I love caramel, and anything that makes it more delightful has got to be good. “Hey,” I said to myself, “That stuff is made by FiberOne and is supposed to taste great.” I didn’t really care that 1 cup has 35 percent of my daily dose of fiber; that was just a happy plus. I could not resist; I bought a box.
Next, I was out of my regular low-calorie granola bars and picked up the chocolate chewy FiberOne bars with 35 percent of my daily dose. On the back was a BOGO (buy one, get one free) coupon for FiberOne yogurt. I eat yogurt almost every day so…you guessed it. I now have tons of the funniest products on TV.
I started thinking about fiber when friend, Terri, suggested we should eat 35 grams a day. That didn’t seem like too much—at first. I never met a fruit I didn’t like and vegetables are a close second. Then, I started reading food labels, and got a bit of a shock.
Start with salad—because they’re easy, I get those bags of lettuce with the carrots and stuff inside. Then, I add my own extras, like tomatoes or cucumbers. Two cups of this equals about 1 gram of fiber. ONE?!
“Uh-oh,” I thought, “34 more to go?” It didn’t look promising.
“Breakfast should be good,” I said, grabbing my box of FiberOne. Yup, 9 grams. But, wait…my cup of oatmeal only yields 4 grams. And Multigrain Cheerios has just 3 per cup. Sadly, one of those SlimFast drinks has 5 grams—better than a big bowl of oatmeal. And a medium apple with skin on is almost 4 1/2 grams, also beating the oatmeal. It wasn’t making sense.
“So, how do you do it?” I asked the nearest friend.
“I take fiber supplements,” she said dryly, munching white bread toast with jelly. “I don’t have time for all of this!”
This was harder than I thought. So, I called on the experts at the Mayo Clinic Web site (http://mayoclinic.com—enter “fiber” in the search box). They cheered me up a bit with these suggested daily guidelines from the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine: men age 50 and younger should have 38 grams of fiber a day, and men 51 and older should have 30 grams; and women age 50 and younger should have 25 grams of fiber a day, and women 51 and older should have 21 grams.
It seems that some things get smaller in our Second Half, and this is one of the GOOD ones (chuckle discretely here)! Twenty-one grams isn’t as difficult as Terri’s suggested 35.
There are two kinds of fiber, Mayo tells me: soluble and insoluble. They both do different things, so we should try for both each day.
• Soluble fiber—dissolves in water to form a gel-like material that helps lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels, found in oats, apples, beans, citrus and psyllium.
• Insoluble fiber—promotes digestive regularity and found in whole grains, nuts and vegetables.
All my pals just laugh when I ask about it, so I wondered, “Why should I care?”
Again, I turned to Mayo Clinic for reasons to care about fiber—they gave me half a dozen:
• Prevents constipation and promotes regularity.
• Lowers your risk of digestive conditions such as hemorrhoids, IBS and diverticulitis.
• Lowers blood cholesterol levels by diminishing “bad” cholesterol.
• Controls blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar.
• Aids in weight loss by tricking your brain into feeling fuller longer and has fewer calories per volume compared to other foods.
• Possibly reduces colorectal cancer, although the evidence is mixed.
The Mayo Web site has lots of easy-to-digest (pardon the pun) info about the subject, so I recommend checking it out.
OK, I get it—fiber is important: “But how do we get enough?”
Here’s how: First, I pledge to eat FiberOne cereal and a granola bar each day. That way, I am at 18 grams, almost to my goal of 21. A salad and a few nuts put me at that goal, with any extra fruit or whole grains as an added benefit. I’m happy to report I get plenty! And I refuse to resort to fiber supplements when there are so many great things to eat.
From now on, you will know me by my battle cry: “Cardboard, no. Delicious, yes!”
In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the September 2-8, 2009 issue
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