All about Dietary Fiber
Many of you will have heard about how important it is to include fiber in your daily diet – but do you really know why?
This article outlines what exactly dietary fiber is, what the benefits are and how you can include good sources of fiber in your meal plans.
What is fiber?
Dietary fiber is also known as roughage or bulk. It is the part of plant foods that your body is unable to absorb or digest, unlike fats, proteins and carbohydrates which are all broken down by the body. It is usually divided into soluble and insoluble fibers. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can help lower blood cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber cannot be dissolved in water and aids constipation, as it helps movement in your digestive system.
Why include fiber rich foods in my diet?
Most people know of the connection between dietary fiber and relieving constipation but there are many more health benefits. Fiber does indeed reduce the chances of constipation, by softening stools and regulating bowel movement. It also helps with overall bowel health, such as lowering the risk of haemorrhoids and, some researchers believe, colon cancer.
What many people do not realise is the benefits of dietary fiber in lowering cholesterol levels and controlling glucose and blood sugar levels. It is particularly helpful for those with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes (type 2).
Another, often unknown, benefit of fiber-rich foods is that they take longer to chew, allowing your body “know” when it has had enough food as opposed to eating too quickly and over-eating resulting in weight gain and other problems in the body. On the other hand, it is important not to consume too much dietary fiber, as this can cause bloating. The secret is to know your body well enough to determin how much fiber is enough and how much it too much.
Foods high in fiber
Soluble fiber can be found in foods such as beans, peas, oats, barley and citrus fruits, while insoluble fiber can be found in whole-wheat pasta and bran (cereal), as well as vegetables such as potatoes and cauliflower. White pasta and white bread or canned versions of fruit and vegetables are low in fiber, as they have been refined.
The same goes for removing the skin from fruits, such as apple peel. It is advisable to drink lots of water which is absorbed by fiber to help it work better in the body.
Some foods which are high in fiber to add to your shopping trolley on your next visit to the grocery store include:
- ripe bananas
- root vegetables
- flax seeds and nuts.
Many of these make great snacks to have throughout the day.
Soluble fiber supplements are sometimes taken, especially to relive symptoms such of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. The best fiber supplement will add to your existing diet and boost daily fiber intake levels to ensure you are having enough.
Fiber supplements are usually made from fiber that is extracted from plants or animals, with health benefits to humans. A supplement can come in a variety of forms and flavours, including powders, tablets and oil.
A great fiber supplement you can include in your diet that would ensure you have enough fiber in your diet that will allow you to eat less, feel full and transport fat and toxins out of the body is Skinny Fiber.
How much fiber should I eat?
According to the Institute of Medicine (2012), the daily recommended amount for adults is 38 grams in men age 50 or younger and 30 grams in over 50s and for women, 25 grams if 50 or under and 21 grams if over 50 (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983). When increasing the amount of foods with fiber in your diet, it is important to do so gradually, this is because a high fiber foods list and sudden increase can avoid bloating and gas.
How to include more good sources of fiber into your diet
Breakfast is one of the easiest ways to include more insoluble and soluble fiber foods into your diet, with various high-fiber cereals available.
Breakfast is also a great start to the day in helping your weight control and enabling you to feel satisfied and full until lunchtime. Try adding chopped bananas or sprinkling some blackberries on top of your cereal for added fiber. When snacking on fruit, also leave the peel on (after giving it a rinse), as this part of the fruit is highest in fiber.
Try adding juicing fasting as a way to clean out your digestive system, give it a bit of a break by replacing one of your meals with a fiberous fruit juice smoothy. You can check out my top 10 juice fasting recipes here.
Other snacks which will help increase how much fiber you eat per day include using spreads such as hummus, adding extras to pizza toppings such as spinach, onions or peppers, munching on some raw vegetables such as carrot sticks, or mixing up a fruit smoothie for a high fiber drink.
It is difficult to escape food packaging and advertising claiming that a product is high in fiber and how great that is for your health. What this article explains is how to boost your daily levels of dietary fiber and why is it important to reach your daily recommended amount.
It is crucial to eat a well-balanced diet, and this includes not only protein, carbohydrates and good fats, but dietary fiber as well. For the many people who do not obtain enough fiber in their meals, there are so many quick and easy ways to increase it or to simply add a supplement. Once you reach adequate fiber levels, you can feel the difference in your everyday health and wellbeing.