Perhaps when you think of fiber, the images of Metamucil and “keeping things moving” come to mind. While this is one facet of fiber, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Fiber’s role in our health extends far beyond just the digestive system. Let’s dive into the importance of fiber, discuss optimal amounts to consume, and explore simple yet effective ways to enjoy more fiber throughout the day.
Fiber is found in many foods including fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. It’s the main reason why doctors and dietitians insist on incorporating a wide variety of plant based foods in our diets. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble, both of which are important and are found in different types of foods.
Why is fiber so good for us?
Digestive Regularity: This is the benefit that most people are familiar with. Fiber provides bulk to the stool which helps prevent constipation and improves regularity.
Cholesterol Management: Soluble fiber (found in oats, black beans, and chia seeds) binds to cholesterol particles which in turn can help lower cholesterol levels. This is especially important for maintaining heart health.
Blood Sugar Regulation: Consuming fiber with meals and snacks slows down digestion. This helps the body avoid blood sugar spikes which is important especially for folks who have diabetes.
Weight Management: Fiber provides a sensation of fullness that lasts, which can potentially ward off cravings. Incorporating lots of fiber into our daily meals can reduce overall food intake, as fiber works to suppress the hunger we might experience on a diet lower in fiber.
Cancer Prevention: Though still under the research lens, a high fiber diet may prevent certain types of cancer including colorectal cancer.
How much fiber should I eat every day?
For adults up to age 50, the recommendation for men is 38g and women is 25g per day. Those over 50 should aim to consume 30g and 21g, respectively. Remember to add fiber to your diet slowly. Let your digestive system get adjusted to a higher fiber intake by increasing it by just a few grams a day. Too much fiber all at once can shock the system and may cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Don’t forget to pair increased fiber intake with plenty of fluids.
Here are some simple ways to increase your fiber intake:
Swap refined grains for whole grains. Think whole wheat bread over white, brown rice over white, and whole wheat pasta over regular.
Eat beans daily. Just ½ a cup of black beans has 7g of fiber. Try adding beans to a salad or making them as a side dish.
Fill half of your plate with veggies. This simple rule will ensure that you’re getting lots of fiber at every meal.
Snack on fruits and nuts. Together, fruits and nuts pack a big fiber punch. You can also add them to oatmeal and cereal to increase fiber at breakfast.
Supplement, if needed. “Food first” is my motto, but if you struggle to meet your fiber needs, there are many great supplements available to help you increase fiber intake. If you’re curious about specific recommendations, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Fiber is essential for health and longevity. From staving off diseases to nourishing the body, fiber works on many levels to help us be our healthiest. You can embrace these simple tips to start your fiber journey today.
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