Fiber A Form of Carbohydrate

Perhaps your grandmother called it roughage; physicians call it bulk. No matter what it's called, dietary fiber is traditionally used for relieving constipation, an important consideration when changing the way you eat as you do when you start Atkins.

What exactly is fiber? Simply put, dietary fiber is the indigestible parts of plant cells. Although it is a carbohydrate, fiber does not convert to glucose and thus does not raise your blood-sugar level the way carbohydrates typically do.

In fact, fiber actually slows the entry of glucose into the bloodstream. This in turn reduces the blood-sugar spikes that cause insulin production and encourage the body to produce and store body fat.' And by slowing down food's transit time in the digestive tract, fiber helps you feel full longer, resulting in fewer food cravings.

But that's just the beginning. Fiber also:

• binds to cholesterol in the intestine, helping rid the body of it.

• absorbs and then eliminates bacterial toxins in the intestine.

• reduces the likelihood of getting diverticulitis.

• speeds the excretion of gallstone-promoting bile.

• supports the immune system by crowding out harmful bacteria in the colon.

• bulks up the stool and make it easier to pass.

Supplementing With Fiber

Fiber-rich foods include vegetables, nuts and seeds, fruits, beans and whole unrefined grains. During Induction, your primary source of fiber will be vegetables. (In later phases you will be introducing the other sources of fiber in the order aforementioned.)

How can you get the benefits of fiber without the carbs contained in these foods? The answer is supplementation. I recommend that you take one tablespoon of psyllium husks daily. Be sure to select a sugar-free product. You can also take one tablespoon of coarse wheat bran or flaxseed meal. Although it's derived from grain, coarse bran is pure fiber and therefore it too contributes zero to your carb count. Psyllium husks should be mixed with water. You can sprinkle bran over your vegetables or blend flaxseed meal into a shake.

Drinking the recommended eight glasses or more of water daily is also essential to avoid constipation. You need to accompany any increase in fiber intake with plenty of water.

Be aware that fiber is one place where less is more. Consuming too much can block mineral absorption because food simply doesn't stay in the digestive tract long enough for your body to extract valuable nutrients. Gas, flatulence or constipation can also result. If you haven't been eating significant amounts of fiber, increase your intake gradually to allow the intestinal tract to adjust.

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