Why is Fiber Important?
By Lizzie Streit, MS, RDN, LD
Most people are not aware of all of the benefits that come from eating enough fiber. You may know that fiber is good for digestion, but do you know about the other functions of this nutrient? Some of them may surprise you!
Anyone interested in improving their health and preventing disease can usually benefit from eating more fiber.
Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate found in whole, unprocessed plant foods. Foods that are rich in fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes.
The recommendations for daily fiber intake for healthy adults are 21 to 25 grams for women and 30 to 38 grams for men. Some Americans barely eat half of this recommendation!
The two categories of fiber are soluble and insoluble. As the names suggest, soluble fiber dissolves in water and insoluble fiber does not. Both types of fiber have different benefits and functions.
Benefits of Fiber
Eating enough fiber can provide many health benefits, including:
1. Weight Loss
Filling up on fiber-rich foods can help people reduce their overall caloric intake. Some people may lose weight simply by increasing their intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other foods with fiber. This is because fiber takes longer to digest and promotes feelings of fullness.
2. Improved Cholesterol
Eating more soluble fiber may improve cholesterol levels, especially elevated LDL cholesterol that is linked to heart disease.
3. Stabilization of Blood Sugars
People with blood sugar issues and diabetes can benefit from eating fiber. Since fiber cannot be digested, it passes through the body unchanged and does not raise blood sugar even though it is a type of carbohydrate. Fiber also slows down digestion and helps prevent sudden spikes in blood sugar.
4. Decreased Risk for Cancer
Eating enough fiber may be associated with a reduced risk for some types of cancer, especially colorectal.
5. A Healthy Gut
Your gut is filled with trillions of bacteria that influence mood and immunity, among many other bodily functions. Eating foods with fiber helps nourish the good bacteria in the gut and promote overall health.
6. Bowel Regularity
Whether you go to the bathroom too often or not enough, adding more fiber to your meals can help you become more regular. Soluble fiber in oatmeal, bananas, and potatoes absorbs water and can prevent loose stools. Insoluble fiber in popcorn, vegetables, and wheat bran can improve the passing of food.
Tips to Increase Fiber Intake
Eating a diet rich in real, nutritious foods can help you meet your fiber needs. Here are a few simple tips to up your fiber intake:
1. Load up on legumes. Eat beans or legumes in place of meat a few times of week. Get your protein while also increasing fiber!
2. Snack on plants. Reach for raw vegetables or fruits instead of cookies, chips, and other processed foods.
3. Make your grains whole. Look for 100% whole grain pastas and bread products. Choose brown over white rice, and incorporate quinoa, farro, millet and other whole grains.
4. Eat the skins! Instead of peeling your fruit or potatoes, keep their skins on to get more fiber.
Note from Healthy for Life Meals: While most Americans get far less than the recommended amounts of fiber per day, each meal plan offered by Healthy For Life Meals more than meets these recommendations. Our 1200 calorie plan provides 26g of dietary fiber per day, our 1500 calorie plan provides 35g, and our 2000 calorie plan provides 42g. It’s our mission to do the work to make sure you get the nutrition you need. Get started today.