Got Fiber?

You may have been told by a medical professional to eat more fiber, or you’ve heard it on the news and through social media. But you may not know what foods are high in fiber (that taste good!) or how much you should aim to consume a day. Most Americans do not consume enough, despite knowing fiber is good for their health. Let’s start by talking through why fiber is important for each of us.

Fiber is a part of plant foods that our bodies cannot digest or absorb. It’s sometimes called “roughage.” Unlike other nutrients in foods such as fat, carbohydrates and protein, fiber cannot be broken down and digested by the body. It will pass through your stomach and intestines pretty much intact.  If it cannot be absorbed, then why is it good for us? Because it’s not absorbed, it helps to lower blood cholesterol and lower blood glucose levels. Soluble fiber, which is the part of fiber that does dissolve in water, turns into a gel-like material as it goes through the intestinal tract. As it does this, it pulls the cholesterol and glucose from your body. The second type of fiber, which is called insoluble fiber, does not dissolve in water. This type of fiber helps to push the foods through the digestive system, producing stool; this fiber can help anyone having trouble with constipation or irregular stooling. Not only does fiber help us with lowering cholesterol and glucose, as well as helping us stay regular in the bathroom, it also helps us achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Foods with fiber tend to be more filling, which helps us consume more appropriate amounts of food. 

On average, it is recommended that we eat around 25 grams of fiber a day. If you’ve never paid attention to the fiber in foods or how much you consume in one day, you should try tracking it for a day or two! Most people find it eye opening to see that they are only eating 10-15 grams of fiber at the most. You can find fiber on the nutrition label for all packaged foods. For fresh produce, you may have to look up how much fiber is in the serving you consumed. But I do have a warning! If you begin to increase your fiber intake, make sure you also increase your water or fluid intake! If you do not have enough fluids going into your body but you increase your fiber intake, it may have the opposite effect on your stooling! Fiber needs fluids to aid in the process of moving through the digestive system since it is not absorbed. So as you up your fiber, up your fluids as well! 

Good sources of fiber: 

  • Beans and lentils: Kidney beans, black beans, lima beans, edamame, chickpeas 
  • Nuts & seeds: chia seeds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, most nuts
  • Whole grains : cereals (look for at least 3g per serving), whole wheat bread & pasta, oats, quinoa
  • Vegetables: dark leafy greens, split peas, broccoli, artichokes, brussels sprouts, kale 
  • Fruits: avocados, pears, apples, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries,

These are just examples of foods with fiber but there are more than just this list! Pay attention to food labels and look into the produce you are choosing. Are there higher fiber options that you could switch out throughout the week?



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