Written by Annie Pappin
As of late, we’ve been getting a lot of inquiry about fiber. There’s always a lot of talk about the importance of consuming enough dietary fiber, but maybe it’s time to devote a little extra attention to the specific reasons why it’s so good for you. A diet rich in fiber can support our health in a number of ways, including:
• Normalize bowel movements
• Helps maintain bowel integrity and health
• Lowers blood cholesterol levels
• Helps control blood sugar levels
• Aids in weight loss
Unfortunately, the average individual is not consuming the necessary amounts of fiber to reap all its healthy benefits. The American Heart Association recommends eating about 25-38 grams of fiber a day; on average, we consume only about 10-15 grams!
So…what exactly is fiber? Fiber is the part of plant foods that our bodies cannot digest or absorb. It is the roughage or ‘bulk’ found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and both are good for our health.
Soluble fiber absorbs water, which helps to soften stools making them easier to eliminate from our body. Soluble fiber also slows digestion down, which increases nutrient absorption and moderates blood sugar levels. Some soluble fibers, called beta glucan, bind to bile acids that contain cholesterol and push them out of our bodies- effectively reducing the amount of cholesterol in our blood. Examples of foods with high amounts of soluble fiber include psyllium husk, citrus fruits, apple with skin, dried figs, black beans, lentils, artichokes, edamame and kale.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, so it adds bulk and acts like a brush that cleans out your colon, helping material pass through the digestive track more quickly, which prevents constipation. Foods that contain high amounts of insoluble fiber include blueberries, raspberries strawberries, garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans, almonds, lentils and kale.
Foods high in dietary fiber generally require a little more chew-time, which gives your body the opportunity to register when you’re no longer hungry, so you’re less likely to overeat! Furthermore, high fiber foods tend to make a meal feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time. And finally, high fiber foods tend to be less energy dense- which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.
As you can see, dietary fiber has many positive effects for our health! By eating the recommended amounts of fiber-rich foods we are better able to support our nutritional goals of health and well-being. High fiber foods are designed to take care of you, enjoy!
Now, the question is, how can I get more fiber into my diet?? I put together a quick sample menu to see what 30 grams of fiber might look like in one day:
- Add a ½ cup of raspberries plus 1 tbsp of psyllium seed husk to your smoothie in the morning (7g).
- A salad at lunch with a ¼ cup of black beans with a 1 cup diced red peppers (7.5g).
- Snack on a ¼ cup of hummus with ½ cup of broccoli and another ½ cup celery sticks (6g).
- For dinner, sauté 1 cup of kale along side your favorite main dish (7g).
- For dessert, enjoy a ½ cup of blackberries (3.8g).
Total: 30.3 grams
For your convenience, we’ve added a list of a few foods that detail both soluble and insoluble fiber content. We also listed the total, net and GreenLite Units for carbohydrates. For weight loss objectives, remain attentive to carbohydrate quantities. The GreenLite carbohydrate units should not exceed 4 units, or 28g, in one day. Please refer to sources below table if you are interested in furthering your own fiber/carbohydrate and general nutrition analyses.
Self Nutrition Data. 2012. Conde Naste. http://nutritiondata.self.com/
Fiber Content of Food in Common Portions. 2004. Harvard University Health Services.
Nutrition and Healthy Eating. 2009 http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fiber/NU00033
Fiber Facts: Why Fiber is Important. The Permanente Medical Group. 2006 http://www.permanente.net/homepage/kaiser/pdf/4946.pdf
Jegtvig, Shareen. 2012. High Fiber Foods. http://nutrition.about.com/od/foodfun/a/high_fiber_food.htm