Fiber’s connection to health is frequently overlooked when planning a healthy or weight loss diet. I often tell my patients that fiber is on team defense because it defends against high cholesterol, high blood sugars, hunger and constipation. It is also important for gut health and may reduce the risk of some cancers.
Fiber is the part of plants that can’t be digested. This gives it an important role in health. There are two types known as insoluble and soluble. They both have health benefits but are different. Because they come from plants, we need to be eating our fruits, vegetables and whole grains throughout the day. Nuts and beans also contain fiber. There are fiber supplements but the benefits of eating plant foods mean we get a lot more nutrition for our effort. Remember the bright colors of fruits and vegetables are guardians of our health.
Insoluble fibers prevent constipation and are generally the “brans” although oat bran is a soluble fiber. It does not dissolve in water and helps us form bulky stools. Soluble fibers dissolve in water and form a gel-like texture. These guys can trap cholesterol particles in the intestines as well as help reduce blood sugar spikes and hunger.
Again, fiber is only from plant-based foods. Some foods are fortified with fiber such as cereals or snack bars. You can find fiber on the Nutrition Facts label under Total Carbohydrates. Sometimes the label will have Dietary Fiber instead of just Fiber. The recommendation for total fiber intake is between 25-35 grams per day. If you plan to increase your fiber intake then add it slowly and always drink plenty of water.
A good way to start increasing dietary fiber is to have two or three servings of fruit a day and 3 servings of vegetables. A medium apple has about 4 grams of fiber, a slice of whole grain bread has about 3 and 1 cup of cooked beans has about 9 grams. You can find the fiber content of foods on food tracker apps or by doing an internet search. Eating a variety of whole plant foods is really all you need to accomplish a good fiber intake.
I suggest doing a fiber inventory. What do you already have in your refrigerator / freezer or pantry that contains fiber? Breakfast cereals, beans, brown rice, oats, corn, nuts, fruits, and vegetables are all food items to look for in your kitchen.
Striving to eat a diet high in fiber is worth the health benefits. Fiber has a strong connection to health and with sugar, fat and processed foods on team offense, we need more players on defense.