No matter what diet you read about, all of them will always say the same thing: Eat more fiber.
Why? Fiber is good for you!
Fiber helps with digestion, maintains bowel health, lowers cholesterol, controls blood sugars, and helps you feel fuller to achieve a healthier weight.
Fiber is abundant in numerous foods and can help you achieve a healthier body.
What Is Dietary Fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is not digested by the body. Although most carbohydrates are broken into smaller molecules, fiber is not digested into smaller sugar molecules – rather fiber passes through the gastrointestinal tract undigested.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can lower sugar levels and lower blood cholesterol.
Typically soluble fibers are found in oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples and blueberries.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and helps pass food through the digestive system, which promotes regular bowel movements and decreases constipation.
Insoluble fibers can also be found in wheat, whole wheat bread, whole grain couscous, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes.
As you can see, most plant-based foods contain rich sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber.
However, it’s important to vary your diet so you can attain high levels of both soluble and insoluble fiber to get the most benefit.
How Much Fiber Do You Need?
The Institute of Medicine recommends that a range of fiber intake recommendations for different populations.
In general, it is recommended that men younger than 50 get 38g of fiber a day and men over the age of 50 get 30g of fiber a day. While women younger than 50 get 25g of fiber a day, and women over age 50 get 21g of fiber a day.
Table 1: Fiber intake recommendations
What Foods Have The Most Fiber?
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the best sources of fiber are whole grain foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
While it is true that you can find fiber in processed or refined foods – canned fruits, vegetables, pulp-free juices or white bread – these are lower in fiber.
The reason being that refining removes the outer coat (bran) of the grain which contains the high fiber content.
While some enriched foods may have added vitamins and minerals, they will still lack in fiber since processing removes fiber from the grain.
Why Fiber Is Important In A Healthy Diet
Studies have routinely shown wonderful of health benefits of fiber. Fiber reduces the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease and constipation. It has also been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer. Fiber plays a pivotal role in lowering cholesterol, weight loss and helping maintain a healthy weight.When you eat more fiber you feel fuller and this decreases your appetite so you are less likely to overeat.
How To Add More Fiber To Your Diet?
There are plenty of simple changes you can do to increase your fiber intake without totally changing your diet.
In the morning start your day off right with oatmeal. A cup of oatmeal contains 4g of fiber. Simply mix this a one cup of raspberries (8g of fiber), one cup of blueberries (8g of fiber), or a banana (3g of fiber) to increase your fiber intake.
At lunch ditch the white bread and white rice and opt for whole grain bread or whole grain pasta.
Pack some fruits with you like bananas, pears or berries for a sweet healthy snack that is loaded with fiber. Or carry some nuts with you at work for a crunchy salt-free snack that packs of punch of fiber too!
During dinner be sure to eat plenty of vegetables and legumes to complete your fiber recommended intake for the day.
While you should strive to eat the recommended fiber intake for your gender and age, be mindful that if you eat too much fiber this can cause bloating, cramping and gas. Be sure to drink plenty of water too so that the fiber can help your digestive tract.
Should You Use Fiber Supplements?
It is always better to eat whole foods rather than rely on fiber supplements since whole food provides the essential vitamins, minerals, protein and other beneficial nutrients not found in fiber supplements.
However, for those that cannot get the recommended total fiber in for the day, it is advised to take fiber supplements such as Metamucil. However, try not to relay on this as you want to have a varied diet.
Rajiv M Mallipudi, md, mhs is an internal medicine resident physician, personal trainer, athlete and author. He has over a decade of personal training experience and helped hundreds of clients of all levels achieve their weight loss and fitness goals. This inspired him to work as a clinical researcher at the nationally recognized Johns Hopkins Hospital Weight Management Center. During medical school he and his classmates created the health and wellness organization, medfit, which provided personal training and nutrition counseling to the medical student body. In his spare time, Dr. Mallipudi enjoys playing ice hockey, dancing, and training for his next bodybuilding and powerlifting competitions. Dr. Mallipudi serves as a contributing writer for the Diet and Fitness sections.
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