By: Leah Golden, MS, RD
You’ve probably heard that eating fiber is good for you, right? Well, the rumors are true! Fiber containing foods provide roughage for digestion, disease protective nutrients and may be protective and beneficial in controlling a variety of health conditions. Let’s take a closer look:
What is Dietary Fiber?
Dietary fiber is essentially the indigestible components of carbohydrates that do not get broken down during digestion. Unlike fats, carbohydrates and proteins that break down and get absorbed into the body and utilized, dietary fiber passes through the body fairly intact. There are two types of fiber, insoluble and soluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the GI tract. These foods include oats, beans, carrots, and apples. Insoluble fiber provides more roughage and bulks up stool. This type of fiber is found in wheat bran, cauliflower and potatoes.
What Are the Health Benefits of Fiber?
- Better Bowel Movements: Fiber may help reduce constipation and improve your poops! Both types of fiber essentially help to bulk up stool, add weight and make it easier to pass. If you’re someone that tends to lean towards constipation or loose and watery stool, check on your daily fiber intake.
- Heart Health: Soluble fiber found in foods such as oats, flaxseeds, barley and beans has been shown to improve cholesterol levels by reducing low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol.
- Weight Management: High fiber foods tend to fill people up more quickly and may help to keep the bellies satiated longer until the next meal or snack. Eating fiber along with protein may also increase this effect. This is a great tactic for weight management and portion control.
- Help to Control Blood Sugar: Including fiber along with a meal/snack can help to slow down the absorption ofsugar into the bloodstream. This slow-down will help reduce blood glucose from rising so rapidly and more even keeled.
So How Much Do I Need Daily?
The daily recommendation of fiber is 25 g for women and 38 g for men, under 50 years of age. For men and women over the age of 50, the daily recommendation is 30 g and 21 g, respectively. If you are currently consuming very little fiber a day (i.e- about 5 g/day), you may want to gradually increase your intake along with plenty of water to avoid digestive discomfort.
What Foods Have Fiber?
- Fruits and Veggies: pears, apples, avocados, potatoes, raspberries, strawberries, avocado, squash, dark leafy greens, etc.
- Beans/Legumes- black beans, garbanzo, lentils, etc.
- Nuts and Seeds- almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, etc
- Whole Grains- wheat bran, barley, brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc.
- Savory oatmeal with avocado, fried egg and sautéed greens
- Whole grain crackers with hummus
- Sliced apple with almond butter
- Whole grain toast with peanut butter and banana