What is Fiber?
Fiber has many health benefits, yet many people do not eat the daily recommended amount of 20 - 35 grams a day. The body does not digest fiber; therefore, it does not add any calories. Fiber is found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes.
Health Benefits of Fiber:
- Feel fuller sooner and longer
- Slows the rise of blood sugar after eating
- Lowers blood cholesterol
- Decreases risk of diabetes
- Prevents constipation
Two Types of Fiber:
- Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, so it helps move food through the digestive system. This type of fiber prevents constipation, increases stool volume and helps waste pass easily through the intestines. Insoluble fiber is found in bran, whole grains, as well as some vegetables and nuts.
- Soluble fiber dissolves in water, which helps lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, beans, citrus fruits and barley.
Increase Fiber Intake.
When increasing fiber intake to the recommended amount of 20 - 35 grams a day, follow these suggestions:
- Increase fiber slowly - add no more than 5 grams a day. Adding it too quickly can cause diarrhea, gas and bloating.
- Drink plenty of water and non-calorie fluids. A high-fiber diet without enough fluid intake can cause constipation.
Tips to Increase Fiber Intake:
- Use brown rice instead of white rice.
- Include a bean dish at least once a week; add beans to salads.
- Use whole grain cereals that have at least 4 grams of fiber per serving; combine with fresh fruit.
- Eat whole fruit rather than drinking juice.
- Snack on fruits, vegetables, popcorn or high-fiber crackers.
- Eat the skin on fruits and vegetables when possible.
- Increase vegetables portions at lunch and dinner.
- Look for packaged foods with at least 2 grams of fiber per 100 calories.
- Eat whole grain bread instead of white bread. Whole grain should be the first item listed on the food label. Avoid large amounts of processed grains.