Since my post on heart health two weeks ago, I have had several people ask me about fiber in their diet. I am not a doctor nor a degreed nutritionist. But I have been educated on nutrition over the years as a personal trainer and yoga instructor. And I read a lot out of personal interest.
My grandmother has been in the hospital off and on the last two weeks dealing with intestinal issues. Her struggle coupled with friends questions on the issue have lead me here to challenge you to eat more fiber and offer a few suggestions on how to add it into your diet.
Why should you be eating more?
Straight to the point- Increased fiber intake can lower your risks for heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, diverticulitis, gallstones, and kidney stones. You feel less bloated (as long as you are drinking enough water along with increased fiber intake), your tummy is flatter, and your skin will be more radiant. The colon is directly correlated with the skin.
When you eat a healthy diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, you usually get most of the fiber you’ll need. Is your diet primarily whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes? If so. Bravo. Your intestines are likely in great health and I applaud you. Share your knowledge and healthy eating habits with those you love. For those of you who do not eat as healthy, keep reading.
Officially, fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Most adult women should shoot for over 20 grams of fiber a day; men should shoot for over 30 grams. Great sources are whole fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and breakfast cereals, and all manner of beans.
What does fiber do?
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 to stool. For some, fiber may provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome.
On average, it takes 39 hours in women and 31 hours in men for food to pass through the colon and out of the body. This time varies a lot from person to person, depending on personality, state of mind, and fiber intake. Usually, the effect of fiber is to speed up this process
Helps maintain bowel integrity and health. A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids, and small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease). Some fiber is fermented in the colon. Researchers are looking at how this may play a role in preventing diseases of the colon.
Lowers blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Epidemiological studies have shown that increased fiber in the diet can reduce blood pressure and inflammation, which is also protective to heart health.
Helps control blood sugar levels. Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, can slow the absorption of sugar, which for people with diabetes can help improve blood sugar levels. A diet that includes insoluble fiber has been associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Aids in weight loss. 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 and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time. And high-fiber diets also tend to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.
TIPS TO GET MORE FIBER IN YOUR DIET:
1. Go with whole fruit instead of juice. Whole apples and whole oranges are packed with a lot more fiber and a lot fewer calories than their liquid counterparts.
2. Break the fast with fruit. Get off to a great start by adding fruit, like berries or melon, to your breakfast every day.
3. Check the label for fiber-filled whole grains. Choose foods that list whole grains (like whole wheat or whole oats) as a first ingredient. Bread, cereal, crackers and other grain foods should have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
4. Eat more beans. It’s easy to forget about beans, but they’re a great tasting, cheap source of fiber, good carbs, protein, and other important nutrients.
5. Try a new dish. Test out international recipes that use whole grains, like tabouli or whole wheat wheat pasta, or beans, like Indian dahls.
6.Eat leafy green vegetables to get more fiber in your diet. Collards, leaf lettuce, spinach, turnip greens, brussel sprouts, and kale are wonderful leafy green vegetables.
These are my suggestions to friends when they ask: Personally, I start off every morning with either a bowl of oatmeal, Fiber One cereal, or whole grain toast with almond butter. I try to include as many fruits and vegetables as I can during the day, look at food labels when I shop and I am trying to drink more water.
A little bit more:
There are two types of fiber: soluable and insoluable. They work differently and offer different benefits. We need both. To learn more click here.
The five most fiber-rich plant foods:
legumes (15–19 grams of fiber per US cup serving, including several types of beans, lentils, and peas),
bran (17 grams per cup),
prunes (12 grams),
Asian pear (10 grams each, 3.6% by weight),
and quinoa (9 grams).
Rubus fruits such as raspberry (8 grams of fiber per serving) and blackberry (7.4 grams of fiber per serving) are also exceptional sources of fiber