We know that fiber is good for us since practically every healthy eating guide stresses the importance of a high fiber diet. Why exactly is fiber so important in our diet?
Fiber is an indigestible part of plant foods which comes in two forms: insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber ends up pushing food along the digestive tract, aiding in digestion and helping form normal stool—making you neither constipated nor having loose stools. Insoluble fiber not only helps us have good digestion, it also lessens our risk of contracting gastrointestinal conditions like colon cancer. On the other hand, insoluble fiber takes on a liquid, gel-like form which slows down the process of digestion. Soluble fiber also helps in controlling weight by delaying the emptying of the stomach and making a person full for longer. The slowing down of digestion also helps in controlling blood sugar levels as well as in increasing sensitivity to insulin, particularly useful for people with diabetes. Soluble fibers also help control bad cholesterol levels in the body while increasing good cholesterol.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that women take 25 grams of fiber a day while men should take upwards of 30-38 grams daily. It is said that most Americans only get an average of 15 grams of fiber a day, far below the recommended allowance. In order to incorporate more fiber in the diet, eat more plant based foods such as fruits and vegetables. When choosing bread and pasta products, you should also opt for whole grains (whole wheat, whole flour) instead of refined white flour. It also helps to set aside a couple of days a week dedicated to vegetarian dishes.
To increase insoluble fiber, you can try the following foods: whole grains, seeds and nuts, fibrous fruits such as pineapple, apple (with skin), grapes, mangoes, brown rice, pumpkin, zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, spinach, carrots and green leafy vegetables. Soluble fiber can be found on many food items like oatmeal, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, walnuts, flaxseed, peas, soya beans, broad beans, cucumbers, carrots and grains.
Here are some other tips in order to be able to incorporate more fiber in your diet.
- Drink more fruit juices
- Eat fresh fruit cups for dessert
- Add veggies to your sandwiches
- Add beans to your dishes
- Start checking food labels and look for high amounts of fiber
- Eat whole grain crackers for snacks
- Snack on nuts and dried fruit
- Regularly eat whole grain cereals for breakfast
- Snack on granola bars
- Add a side of vegetables on your plate each meal such as mashed potatoes, coleslaw or relish