Fiber, a type of carbohydrate, is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. Both soluble and insoluble fiber are essential components of a healthy diet, and most whole foods will contain a combination of the two. Here are five things you should know about fiber:
- Fiber is good for more than just digestion.
While fiber is essential for digestive health, it prevents a lot more than constipation! Consuming adequate fiber will actually lower your risk of developing coronary artery disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Studies have shown that people who consume fiber have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Fiber can help you to control your weight.
In addition to the aforementioned benefits, fiber can also help to keep you fuller longer. When you consume plenty of fiber and water during a meal, you end up feeling fuller on fewer calories. In addition, high-fiber foods typically take more time to chew. You likely won’t consume your food as quickly, and your brain has time to realize you are full. Studies show that consuming whole fruits versus fruit juice during a meal results in overall consumption of fewer calories.
- Americans only consume about half the fiber that is recommended in a day.
It is recommended that individuals consume 25-38 grams of fiber daily, but most Americans only consume about half of this amount. Inadequate daily fiber intake can result in constipation and high blood pressure (short-term), in addition to the chronic conditions previously mentioned (long-term). A lack of fiber in the diet has even been linked to certain types of cancer!
- Foods rich in fiber are usually rich in other important nutrients as well.
Foods that contain fiber typically also contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It’s a win-win! Why not improve your digestion and manage your weight while providing your body with the nutrients it needs to function optimally at the same time?
- It is better to obtain fiber from natural sources than from supplements.
If you need to increase the amount of fiber you consume in a day, fiber supplements are an option. However, it is better to obtain fiber from whole food sources, because they will also provide you with many other health benefits. Below is a table which may help you with increasing the fiber in your diet.
Keep in mind that if you have decided to increase the amount of fiber you consume, it is best to increase in amounts of about 5 grams daily. Amounts greater than this may cause bloating or gas.
|Whole grains, wheat bran, brown rice, and oats
|White, refined grains and white rice
|Beans, peas, nuts, and seeds
|Fried and high-fat meats
Kristi Edwards, MS, RDN, LDN, CLC