Have You Ever Wondered J

  • what grains are whole grain? Buckwheat, brown rice, bulgur, whole kernel corn (hominy), millet, popcorn, quinoa, sorghum, triticale, whole oats and oatmeal, wheat berries, whole barley (not pearl barley), whole rye, and whole wheat are more common whole grains in the United States. Cracked wheat is whole berry wheat, too— just broken into coarse, medium, or fine particles. . . . what graham flour is? It's a whole-wheat flour that's a little coarser than regular whole-wheat flour. Try it!
  • Beta glucan is the soluble fiber in oats and barley.)

These foods provide significant amounts of insoluble and soluble fibers. Their texture is a clue.

  • Insoluble fibers: whole-wheat products; wheat, oat, and corn bran; flaxseeds; and many vegetables (such as cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes), including the skins of fruits and root vegetables, and beans. In fact, their tough, chewy texture comes from insoluble fibers.
  • Solublefibers: dried beans and peas, oats, barley, flaxseeds, and many fruits and vegetables (such as apples, oranges, and carrots). When cooked, their soft, mushy texture comes from their soluble fibers. Psyllium seed husks also supply soluble fiber.

For the record: Any nondigestible carbohydrate in animal-based foods is not currently defined as "dietary fiber" on food labels. But stay tuned in the future for possible changes in fiber labeling on food.

From grain to grain, brans aren't all alike. The bran layers in different grains—wheat, rice, corn, oats, and others—have varying types and different amounts of fiber. Wheat bran, for example, has a higher concentration of fiber than most other bran, and its bran is mainly insoluble. To compare, oat bran contains mainly soluble fiber.

The fiber content of vegetables and fruits varies; some are better sources than others. A heaping bowl of fresh lettuce greens may seem loaded with fiber. However, one cup of lettuce contains just about 1 gram of fiber; instead, it's mostly water. In contrast, 1/i cup of a three-bean salad (mainly legumes) supplies more than 3 fiber grams.

Food preparation or processing also may affect the fiber content of foods. Just as a sponge changes in its ability to hold water when it's chopped into very fine pieces, so properties of fiber may change a bit when the structure is altered by food processing or preparation. Fiber content drops, too, when the fiber-rich part of a food is removed. See "Which Apple for Fiber?" to compare the fiber content in different forms of an apple, including juice.

When it comes to making food choices, don't get hung up on which fiber is which—just consume enough overall. Enjoy a variety of plant-based foods: vegetables (including legumes), fruits, whole-grain foods, and nuts. Minimally processed foods are generally better fiber sources.

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