We often hear fiber is good for you or add more fiber to your diet, but what is fiber? Fiber is a form of carbohydrate found in plants, including whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. The soluble form slows digestion down by combining with water and turning it into a gel. On the other hand, the insoluble kind quickly glides through the body during the digestion process. Besides keeping our digestive system moving and on track, it provides us other benefits to health.
Heart disease is one of the most common chronic diseases that affect the strength and performance of your heart. What you eat matters. Balancing it with regular physical activity gives you the strength and support your body needs to keep everything in working order. Eating a diet low in fat, especially saturated fat, paired with activity can lower your cholesterol and improve the health of your heart. For diabetics and pre-diabetics, fiber helps slow down digestion which helps control the highs and lows of blood sugar. As we all strive to achieve overall wellness and a healthy weight, fiber keeps you fuller longer which can help control the total amount of food you consume each day. Hydration is a key component to health, keep in mind, the more fiber you add, pair it with water.
As we set our nutrition and health goals, how much fiber do we need? It is recommended women aim for around 25 grams and men 38 grams each day. When reading food labels, aim for foods that are 5 grams of fiber or more. If less, try to trade out foods that have higher amounts of fiber. Each time you go to the grocery store look at 2-3 labels and compare the nutrition. Soluble fiber is found in barley, oats, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and many fruits and vegetables. Insoluble can be found in wheat bran, whole grains, and vegetables. Both types of fiber are generally found in whole fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
Simple tips for adding more fiber to your day are consuming the edible skin of many fruits and vegetables and choosing whole fruit over juice. Aim for half your plate to be fruits and veggies with two servings of vegetables at each meal. When planning your meals, factor in whole grains into main dishes, salads, and sides. Some examples include barley, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, rye, and corn. A great way to start each day is with a bowl of oatmeal. It’s considered a whole grain and makes for a great snack too! Top it with fresh or dried fruit and almonds or chia seeds. Try whole-grain pasta and brown rice over white to score extra fiber points. Look for whole grains on the packaging and in the ingredient list. Multi-grain does not mean whole grain. Look for 100% whole wheat or grain bread. Mix beans into salads, soups, and sides for a great source of protein and fiber. Don’t forget to plan for healthy snacks. Plain air-popped popcorn or hummus with veggies and whole-grain crackers are great ways to add up those grams of fiber when snacking throughout the day.
Not sure how much fiber you have each day? Check out the food label or for other fresh food, check out this list. It is part of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans that provides science-based advice on what is recommended to consume to promote health, meet nutrition needs, and decrease the risk of chronic diseases. To access this list visit: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/resources/2020-2025-dietary-guidelines-online-materials/food-sources-select-nutrients/food-0
Your health matters, choose fiber!