Have you ever walked along the grocery store aisles and seen packages proudly exclaiming “good source of fiber?” Ever turn on the television set and hear the woman toting the benefits of the fiber supplement you simply mix with water?
So what exactly is dietary fiber? Why do we need it in our diet? Where do you get it from?
Dietary fiber is found mostly in fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains. Dietary fiber comes in two forms – soluble (dissolves in water) and insoluble (will not dissolve in water) fiber. Soluble fiber combines with water and slows down digestion which makes you feel fuller, longer. Insoluble fiber passes through you system almost entirely intact and has a laxative effect. So, if it passes through your system, it sounds like fiber really isn’t doing much for your body. Not so. In fact, fiber can help with an entire host of health benefits:
• Having consistent and regular bowel movements
• Lowering blood cholesterol
• Helping to control blood sugar levels
• Aiding with weight loss (fills you up, keeps you fuller longer) (Maki)
• Maintaining bowel health (may help prevent constipation, diverticular disease, constipation and some cancers)
So how much fiber do you need in your diet? According to Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, ADA, women should aim for between 21-25 grams per day; and, for men, 30-38 grams. If your current diet is low in fiber and you suddenly start to eat high amounts of fiber-rich foods, you may experience major gastrointestinal discomfort. To avoid this discomfort, slowly increase the fiber in your diet. Try to get up to your ideal grams of fiber per day in a two week period adding a little more each day. Just like you count your calories; it is good practice to count your grams of fiber. Simply switching your breads, pastas, and cereals to whole grains can add a lot of extra fiber to your diet. Also, try adding a small salad to each meal, make sure to have a cup of cooked veggies for dinner each night, make a small handful of almonds part of your afternoon snack. Try switching out one meat dinner per week to a vegetarian recipe that includes fiber-rich beans. It’s also extremely
important to drink plenty of water when eating more fiber. Without water, you may experience constipation, so get those 8 glasses of water per day.
Still not sure which foods are good sources of fiber? Here’s the fiber low down on some of the best sources.
• Artichokes- 1 medium – 10 grams
• Peas- 1 cup, cooked, 8 grams
• Broccoli- 1 cup cooked, 5 grams
• Whole wheat spaghetti- 1 cup, cooked – 6 grams
Remember that it’s the variety of whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables that are important to an overall healthy diet. Eating these foods with regularity will help you to create a variety of healthy meals and snacks that are full of fiber.
Darcie Sosa is the guest blogger and Dietetic Technician for Everyday Health Calorie Counter.
Maki, B.. “Whole-grain ready-to-eat oat cereal, as part of a dietary program for weight loss, reduces low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in adults with overweight and obesity more than a dietary program includi.” Pub Med. Journal of American Diet Association, 2010. Web. 5 Jun 2012.