Fiber is one element of our diet that many of us don’t really consider. It is very important for optimal digestive health, as it helps flush fats and waste products from the body. Without adequate fiber, our digestion and elimination systems can easily become inefficient, cause toxins to build up, and create a number of health issues.
There are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Each act differently in the digestive process, but both are important for good digestive health.
- Soluble fiber absorbs up to 15 times its weight in water as it is digested, which keeps the stools soft. It is also responsible for helping to keep cholesterol and glucose levels stable. Sources include: oatmeal and oat bran; most fruits; nuts and seeds; and legumes.
- Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and increases the bulk of stools, promoting regular bowel movements. Sources include: brown rice; couscous (wheat); barley; whole grains; wheat bran, most vegetables; fruits
Fiber can help lower the glycemic load of foods
When fiber rich foods are eaten with high glycemic foods, it can help keep the blood sugar from spiking, preventing the body from producing excess insulin, which is the fat storing hormone. From this perspective high-fiber foods can help a person maintain optimal body weight.
Seven tips for adding high-fiber foods into your diet:
- Increase your high-fiber intake gradually over a couple of weeks, to avoid uncomfortable gas, bloating, or cramping. This allows the flora of your digestive system to adjust to the new addition.
- Be sure to add more water to your diet, along with the fiber. Fiber needs to have water in order to keep material moving through your digestive system.
- Choose whole foods instead of refined foods. Whole foods contain all the nutrients and fiber as nature intended, with nothing removed. Refined foods are processed, removing much of the nutrition and fiber; even if some nutrition and fiber is added back in – it doesn’t compare to what was originally in the whole food.
- Instead of drinking commercial fruit juices, which are concentrated fruit sugar with no fiber, eat whole fruit and/or vegetables.
- Choose whole grain bread and/or pasta instead of refined white bread or pasta.
- Incorporate legumes (dried peas or beans) into your diet once per week.
- Eat raw vegetables or fruit and a protein (nuts, cheese, etc.) for snacks instead of refined foods.
How much fiber do we need every day?
According to the Mayo Clinic, men need from 30 to 38 grams and women need from 21 to 25 grams (depending on age).
Having enough fiber in your diet keeps the intestinal system healthy, and keeps the wastes moving out of the body. When the stools are soft and bulky, it can prevent constipation and decrease the pressure in the intestines, which can prevent diverticular disease (small pouches in the colon which become inflamed).
Are you interested in more information about which foods are right for you, and your busy lifestyle? Do you need to find out more specific information about which foods are high-fiber ? I can help! Contact me.
Mayo Clinic on Digestive Health, 2nd Edition
The Doctor’s Guide to Gastrointestinal Health by P. Miskovitz, MD and Marian Betancourt
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