Everything You Want to Know About Fiber
You’ve heard that fiber is good for you and that you should be eating more of it, but do you know why? Fiber keeps your digestive tract running smoothly and is an important component of your diet, especially if you are trying to manage your weight and cholesterol levels.
What is Fiber & How Can I Get More of It?
Part of the carbohydrate family and only found in plants, fiber is unique because it doesn’t break down in the body nor does it spike blood sugar levels. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber forms a gel in the body by absorbing water in the digestive tract. This fiber is great for your heart health because it has a special ability to bind and eliminate cholesterol from the body. Soluble fiber can help alleviate diarrhea and constipation because of its gel-forming ability. You can get soluble fiber by eating nuts, barley, beans and oats.
Insoluble fiber cannot be digested by the body, so it acts like a broom to sweep everything through your digestive tract. This fiber is great for maintaining healthy, regular bowel movements because it adds bulk to the stool and can also assist with bowel regularity and the prevention of constipation. You can get insoluble fiber by eating fruits, vegetables, whole grain products and bran cereals.
Eat a variety of plant foods to reap the benefits of both types of fiber.
Make half of your daily grain servings whole grain
Include 1-2 servings of veggies and fruit at every meal (wash and keep the skin on for added fiber!)
Add legumes to your soups and stews or blend them into a dip for veggies
Choose packaged foods with at least 4 grams of fiber per serving
Add wheat bran, rolled oats or ground flaxseed into smoothies and baked goods
Five Reasons to Love Fiber
Aids in weight management by promoting satiety and potentially reducing calorie intake
Maintains bowel health by keeping you regular – in particular, fiber lowers the risk of developing hemorrhoids, diverticulosis (pockets that can form in the colon due to prolonged constipation) and colorectal cancer
Helps control blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol, reducing the risk of diabetes
Lowers the risk of heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in Canada
Prebiotics (fermentable fibers) feed good bacteria in the gut, helping to balance the microbiome
How Much Fiber Should I Be Getting?
Current guidelines recommend an intake of 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams of fiber per day for men.
It is important to drink plenty of water to avoid digestive problems when increasing your fiber intake. A sudden increase in fiber may lead to abdominal discomfort, gas, diarrhea or bowel obstruction. If you aren’t used to a high-fiber diet, increase your intake very gradually.
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