“Eat More Fiber.” “Do you Get Enough Fiber?” How many times have you heard that before? You know it’s important to consume fiber rich foods every day, but do you know why?
What is Fiber?
Fiber is the part of foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. It passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, colon, and out of your body in your stool. It’s found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
Fiber is probably best known for its ability to keep you regular, but it has many other health benefits, such as decreasing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Fiber also helps in maintaining a healthy weight because it keeps you full, delays stomach emptying, and balances blood sugar levels. It’s needed for overall digestive health.
There are 2 types of fiber: insoluble (dissolves in water) and soluble (doesn’t dissolve). You need both for overall good health.
- Soluble fiber: This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. It can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. It also slows the absorption of food, allowing your body to retain more nutrients. Good sources: oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
- Insoluble fiber: This type of fiber helps food move through your digestive system and increases stool bulk. (It can help you if you struggle with constipation.) Good sources: Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes
Most plant-based foods such as oatmeal and beans contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. The amount of each type varies in different plant foods. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods.
Benefits of a High Fiber diet
- Normalizes bowel movements. Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may also help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk.
- Helps maintain bowel health. A high-fiber diet can lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease).
- Lowers cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber, which is found in beans, oats, flaxseed, and oat bran, may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoproteins, the so-called “bad” cholesterol. It also lowers triglyceride levels and raise HDL, the “good” cholesterol. Studies have shown that fiber may have other heart-health benefits such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
- Helps control blood sugar levels. In people with diabetes, fiber, particularly soluble fiber, can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Helps achieve a healthy weight. High-fiber foods generally require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you’re no longer hungry, so you’re less likely to overeat. Also, a high-fiber diet tends to make a meal feel larger, so you stay full for a greater amount of time. And high-fiber diets also tend to be less “energy dense,” meaning you eat fewer calories but the same amount of food.
How much fiber do you need each day?
JJ Virgin, a nutrition & fitness expert, suggests getting at least 50 grams of fiber per day. The Institute of Medicine, which provides science-based advice on matters of medicine and health, gives the following daily recommendations for adults:
- Men age 50 or younger: 38 grams Men age 51 and older: 30 grams,
- Women age 50 or younger: 25 grams Women age 51 and older: 21 grams.
Bring up your fiber intake gradually over the course of a week or 2 (or even 3 if your body is used to a low-fiber diet). Also, be sure to increase your daily water intake as you increase your fiber intake.
High Fiber Choices
All plant foods: Vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds, legumes, tubers, and whole grains have fiber. Usually, the closer the food is to its natural state, the higher the amount of fiber it contains.
Here is a list of list of my favorites. Each serving below provides 5 or more grams of fiber.
• Legumes (black beans, pinto beans, garbanzos, lentils, etc.) are a great source of dietary fiber. On average, 1/3 cup of these foods provides 5 grams or more.
• Berries, particularly raspberries and blackberries, are the highest fiber fruit, 3/4 cup provides about 5 grams of fiber.
• Apples and pears provide 5 grams of fiber. They contain a specific type of fiber called pectin that is soothing and healing to the GI tract.
• Chia seeds, flaxseeds, and oat bran can be sprinkled on top of salads, mixed into shakes, and added to oatmeal (after cooking). 2 tablespoons provide about 5 grams of fiber.
• All raw nuts and seeds are high in fiber. Almonds provide the most fiber: 15 almonds contain about 5 grams of fiber.
• All greens are great sources of fiber. 1 cup of cooked Brussels sprouts or broccoli or 1/2 cup of cooked spinach provide 5 grams of fiber.
One cup of cooked steel cut oats contains 5 grams of fiber. Research supports its cholesterol lowering effects.
• Bran cereals are loaded with fiber: 1/4 to 1/2 cup of most types provides 5 grams of fiber. Make sure to choose a brand with no added sugar
• One cup of any of the winter squashes provides 5 grams of fiber. One-half of a medium sized yam or sweet potato provides 5 grams of fiber and is rich in the powerhouse antioxidant beta carotene.
Here is a sample diet that
- Breakfast: Protein shake with 2 tbsp flaxseed meal + 1 cup of raspberries (total 10 grams)
- Lunch: One cup of lentil soup and a mixed green salad topped with grilled chicken and olive oil vinaigrette (total 15 grams)
- Snack: 1 apple and 10 almonds (total 10 grams)
- Dinner: 2 cups of roasted vegetables, 1/2 of a sweet potato, and grilled wild salmon (total 15 grams)
Total for the Day=50 grams
If you are reading this chances are you are interested in improving your health. Fill out the form on the bottom right side of this page or use this link to stay connected to me. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on any of my health information. I also have a free gift for you. After you subscribe I will send you a link to download my free Sleep Guide