Don’t Forget About Fiber
Your mother may have told you when you were growing up: make sure you eat your fiber! But what is fiber and why is it so important? Fiber is the non-digestible part of plant foods. Our body does not absorb fiber, but it is essential to maintaining our health. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber attracts water, which results in a gel like material. The soluble fiber can help to control blood sugar as well as lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It is easier to increase your intake of soluble fiber than you think. Sources of soluble fiber include beans, lentils, peas, oats, barley, nuts and seeds, as well as some fruits and vegetables. Psyllium, typically found in fiber supplements, is also a form of soluble fiber. Try your best to increase your fiber intake through food first before going for the supplement.
Fiber is vital to our digestive process. Insoluble fiber helps to provide bulk to our stool and keep things moving in our digestive system. Incorporate more whole grains, vegetables, beans and nuts in your dietary regimen to increase your intake of insoluble fiber.
The average American consumes 15 grams of fiber per day at best, most consume even less. So, how much fiber do you need? If you’re under 50, The Institute of Medicine recommends 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. If you’re over 50, the IOM recommends 21 grams per day for women and 30 grams per day for men.
Have oatmeal for breakfast with berries (blackberries and raspberries are especially great sources) and include ½ cup of beans on your salad to increase your fiber intake easily. Looking for a comprehensive list of foods with fiber? Check out this article from Today’s Dietitian. You are sure to find foods that you enjoy on this list! In order to meet fiber needs, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables, as well as whole grains and beans each day. Fiber helps to keep us fuller longer, and as a result, is an integral part of weight loss. Fiber can also give us longer lasting energy (swap that sugary cereal for a higher fiber option such as shredded wheat and see if you feel any different).
If you do not currently consume much dietary fiber, it is wise to add it gradually as it will take your body some time to adjust. So, if you need add fiber to your diet, add a little bit of fiber at each meal instead of overloading on fiber at one meal. And don’t forget, drink plenty of water!
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