On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Fruits, Veggies, Grains Provide Plenty of Fiber

DEAR DR. BLONZ: My doctor says I need more fiber in my diet, and recommends a fiber supplement. But it’s expensive, and I’m on a limited retiree budget. The affordable option (I hope) is a combination of oat bran (a soluble fiber) and wheat bran (an insoluble fiber), mixed into whatever else I eat. I have read that both types of fiber are needed. Is that true? And if so, how much of each should I consume daily? Should another kind of fiber, like psyllium seed husks -- which are the basis of the dietary supplements -- be added to the mix? If so, how much? -- F.S., Casa Grande, Arizona

DEAR F.S.: At present, the typical American diet contains about 12 to 15 grams of dietary fiber per day. We should double that, bringing our intake up to 25 to 30 grams per day. Do some checking to see where you stand.

Sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber should be part of your diet, yes; if your diet contains fruits, vegetables and grains, you have this covered.

Taking a fiber supplement may work for constipation, but why strain your budget with supplements when you can get your supply naturally, from nutrient-rich whole foods? No better way to start the day than with a high-fiber, whole-grain cereal with added dried fruits, such as raisins or dried berries.

Read more on fiber at tinyurl.com/ycje978z.

DEAR DR. BLONZ: Is it necessary to use extra-virgin olive oil to get all the health benefits? We found that the flavor of the extra-virgin oil we were getting was often too strong or bitter for our taste, so we switched to ordinary olive oil. What are we missing health-wise, if anything, by not using extra-virgin oil? -- J.N., Hayward, California

DEAR J.N.: “Extra-virgin” signifies the least processed of the oils extracted from the olive. This type of oil contains the highest amount of phytochemicals, which protect the oil -- a vital energy source for the olive seed -- and can help us, as well. But it is important to understand that there are wide varieties of flavors in extra-virgin oils; they vary according to the types of olives, and where in the world they are from, and how they have been grown, harvested and stored.

This being said, extra-virgin will always be the most flavor-intense oil from any variety or batch. Olive characteristics do vary, so I encourage you to visit a store where they do olive oil tastings. Another option is to look online for stores that offer tasting notes for their various oils. You will find more options than you might have imagined.

Bottom line, though, is that irrespective of whether extra-virgin oil has more health assets, it makes no sense to use it if the flavors are not enjoyed.

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.