Fiber is found in all plant-based foods and plays an essential role in human health. A diet rich in high fiber foods can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, lower the risk of several forms of cancer, improve cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as regulate digestion. There are 2 types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber pulls in water to form a gel in the digestive tract. This slows digestion, so that our stomachs and intestine don’t absorb as much of some nutrients, like starch and sugar. Consuming soluble fiber can also improve glucose tolerance in people with diabetes. Oatmeal, barley, mushrooms, and quinoa are examples of soluble fiber.
In general, if a plant food is rough with a tough skin, has a peel, pod or seeds, it is a type of insoluble fiber. Some examples of insoluble fibers are beans, grapes, green leafy vegetables, pineapple, and apples. It acts as a natural laxative that speeds the passage of foods through the stomach. It also gives bulk to stool and helps it to move quickly through the gastrointestinal tract.
High fiber diets may be useful for people who want to lose weight: it contains no calories and it slows down our rate of digestion. Fiber also makes us feel satiated sooner and for longer periods of time. We can utilize these characteristics of fiber to assist us in meeting our weight loss goals.
Getting more fiber in our diets can improve our health and quality of life. Most Americans don’t get anywhere near the amount of fiber, 25 – 38 grams per day recommended in their daily diet. This explains the increasing numbers of gastrointestinal diseases, diverticulitis, constipation, hemorrhoids, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes.
Look for the “dietary fiber” content on food labels. Good sources of fiber have at least 10% of the “percent daily value” of fiber.
TIPS TO ADDING MORE FIBER TO YOUR DIET
1. Try to eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
2. Eat oatmeal, bran, or another whole grain cereal for breakfast.
3. Look for breads, cereals, and crackers that list a whole grain first on the label.
4. Add fiber to your diet slowly, otherwise you may feel bloated or have gas pains.
5. Drink 8 cups of water and other fluids a day to keep things moving smoothly through your intestines.