It’s fairly evident by now that fiber — umm — keeps you regular. That said, it’s still one of the more challenging foods for some of us to maintain with consistency in our diet. Fiber gets a bad rap because it evokes images of prunes and weird, grainy orange drinks. Not so yum.
Only 1 out of 10 Americans gets enough fiber according to the Health and Nutrition Examination survey (NHANES). On average, most adults get only 15 grams out of the 30 grams recommended by most health professionals. I had one professor who suggested we ought to be getting more like 40-45 grams/day for optimal health. Wow– we have a lot of work to do!
The bottom line is that fiber is important for your health. There are two types of fiber in our diets: insoluble and soluble. The best way to remember this is soluble fiber dissolves in water and INsoluble fiber does not. Let me explain a little more…
Soluble fiber attracts water in your digestive system, making it very good at cleaning up the debris, extra estrogen and excess cholesterol in your gut. It literally forms a gel that slows the rate of digestion which can also help you control your blood sugar levels. Even if you don’t have diabetes, this is a very important thing to help prevent the onset and keep your gut bugs happy. On top of it all, soluble fiber helps keep you fuller longer, so you are less tempted to run to the cookie jar. Even modest increases in fiber intake (5 to 10 grams/day) can help reduce LDL cholesterol by 5% or more. You find soluble fiber in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water but it still has a vital role in your gastrointestinal tract. It consists of compounds found in plants cells and the bran layer in cereals. These fibers pass more quickly through the digestive system and promotes regularity. It’s literally nature’s toothbrush for your digestive system! Don’t cut the skin off your fruit and veggies if you don’t have to; this is where all that insoluble fiber is found!
Here are some ideas on how to add more fiber (both soluble and insoluble) to your day. Be sure to drink all of your fiber with plenty of water to avoid stomach discomfort, cramping or bloating. This is especially true if you make a sharp increase in your fiber intake.
- Add 1 oz of pecans (3 g fiber) or almonds (3.5 g) to your morning bowl of steel-cut oats. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup berries (2 g) or apples (2 g), another high fiber source.
- Roast butternut squash or other root veggies and serve 1 cup of them with your eggs and bacon for an additional 3 grams of fiber. Add a side of sauteed kale (3 g) or bok choy (1 g) for brownie points!
- Make a batch of green smoothies. They are all loaded with fiber!
- Top your salad with 1/4 cup of black, pinto or navy beans (4-5 g fiber). Add 1/2 cup broccoli (3.5 g) or 1/2 cup artichoke hearts (7 grams) for a dynamite and filling meal.
- Add veggies to your sandwich including peppers, spinach, and tomatoes. Then, don’t forget to ask for whole grain bread (4 g for 2 slices) over white.
- Instead of grabbing that brownie after your meal, reach for a piece of fruit. Any type will do!
- Have a baked potato but don’t peel off that skin! One small potato packs in 3 grams of fiber.
- Swap out white rice for brown to get an additional 3.5 g of fiber per 1 cup!
- Load up half of your plate with colorful vegetables. Doesn’t matter which kind as they are all going to contribute to your fiber intake and will help you fill up.
- Air-popped corn has 3.6 grams of fiber per 3 cup serving. Shoot for the non-GMO, organic variety to avoid exposure to herbicides and pesticides.
- 2 medium dried figs (1.6 g) with 1 tablespoon of almond butter (1 g) is an excellent choice for a snack.
- 1 medium carrot (2 g) and 2 tablespoons of hummus (2 g) is another loaded fiber snack.