Got Fiber? You should! Research suggests that a diet high in fiber may help reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Fiber also helps maintain bowel regularity, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol, and assists in weight control. Yet, most Americans do not meet their daily fiber needs.
Fiber comes from carbohydrate in plants and cannot be digested. There are 2 types of dietary fiber soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber partially dissolves in water and forms a gel. This type of fiber helps lower blood cholesterol, which aids in reducing the risk of heart disease. It has also been found to reduce the incidence of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of medical conditions such as high blood pressure, elevated blood lipids and obesity, which is linked with heart disease. Research indicates that individuals that consume adequate soluble fiber have also been found to have lower incidence of diabetes. Sources include legumes, dried peas and beans, whole fruits, oats and barley.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Insoluble fiber intake reduces the risk of diverticular disease because it helps relieve and prevent constipation. This type of fiber can be found in wheat bran, barley, brown rice, whole wheat couscous, and bulgur. Seeds and skins of plants (such as apples, broccoli, beans, carrots corn, cucumber, potatoes and zucchini) also provide insoluble fiber.
Need one more reason to eat more fiber? A diet high in fiber may aid in weight reduction. High fiber foods are filling, which can help reduce appetite, especially in between meals. The recommendation for fiber intake is 20-35 grams of fiber daily, and most of us aren’t even close.
Below are some good sources of fiber:
- 1 medium apple with skin – 3 grams
- 1 fresh pear – 5 grams
- 1 cup raspberries – 8 grams
- ½ cup bran flakes – 6 grams
- ½ cup Fiber One cereal – 14 grams
- ½ cup green peas – 4 grams
- ½ cup kidney beans – 8 grams
While it is important to add fiber to your diet, it is recommended that you do it gradually. Fiber attracts water in the colon, and without adequate hydration, constipation can set in. Add just one new high fiber food to your diet daily until your body gets used to it, and be sure to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water daily.
Below are some tips to increase the fiber in your diet:
- Choose whole grain cereal for breakfast like wheat bran, Irish oats and shredded wheat. Substitute whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, couscous or bulgar for white rice, white bread and processed cereals and instant mixes.
- Eat whole fruits regularly, such as apples, blueberries, pears, strawberries and dried fruit.
- Replace high fat meats with high fiber legumes and beans 2-3 times/week
- Skip the chips and snack on raw vegetables such as celery, cucumbers and bell peppers.
- Add a salad to your lunch or dinner. Toss in some chick peas or kidney beans to boost the fiber content.
There are so many reasons and ways to add more fiber to your diet, there’s just no excuse not to!