Added Fiber Equals Better Health

Did you know that older children, adolescents and adults need 20-35 grams of fiber per day, and most get only 10-15 grams/day or less? Would you like to be healthier? Eat more fiber.

Dietary fiber is the term for several materials that make up the parts of plants your body can’t digest. There are two classifications of fiber – insoluble and soluble – those that don’t dissolve in water and those that do. Our bodies need both kinds.

Insoluble fiber: This type of fiber does not dissolve in water and promotes the movement of material through your digestive system. It increases stool bulk, so it can benefit those who suffer with constipation. Think of this type of fiber as a brush that moves through your system scrubbing it clean. Many vegetables are good sources of insoluble fiber, and also wheat bran and nuts.

Soluble fiber: This type of fiber forms a gel in water, such as gums, pectins, and mucilages, helping to promote a softer stool. Soluble fiber slows the passage of food through the digestive system which helps to regulate cholesterol and glucose (sugar) levels in the blood by affecting absorption rates. Food sources of soluble fibers are dried beans, barley, oats, and some fruits and vegetables.

Getting the proper amount of fiber in your diet daily has numerous benefits, including:

Relieves and/or prevents constipation.
Controls blood sugar levels.
Helps in weight loss.
Decreases blood cholesterol levels.
Reduces your risk of digestive problems.
Decreased risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.

That being said, eating a large amount of fiber in a short period of time can cause intestinal gas, bloating and abdominal cramps unless you are accustomed to it. If you’re a newbie to fiber, add these foods gradually to your diet, instead of all at one time. Your system will soon get used to the increase in fiber.

Tips for adding more fiber to your diet:

Instead of white flour bread, choose whole-grain bread.
Choose brown rice instead of white, and whole-wheat pasta instead of white flour pasta.
Eat more beans. You can add them to soups, salads and casseroles.
Snack on raw veggies instead of cookies.
Choose a high-fiber breakfast cereal (5 or more grams of fiber per serving). Or, you can add a few tablespoons of unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.
Snack on popcorn instead of chips.
Add unprocessed wheat bran or crushed bran cereal to baked products, such as meatloaf, casseroles, cakes and breads.

Important Note: When adding more fiber to your diet, it is very important to drink more fluids (6-8 glasses of water per day). Fiber works best when it absorbs water. Without the added water, you could become constipated.

A good rule of thumb is to eat at least 2 cups of fruits and 2 ½ cups of vegetables each day.

High-fiber choices are:

Beans – navy (1 cup cooked, 19 grams), kidney (1 cup cooked, 16.3 grams), and great northern (1 cup cooked, 13 grams).
Sweet potatoes (1 med. 4.8 grams)
Pears (1 small, 4.4 grams)
Prunes (1/2 cup, 3.8 grams)
Blackberries and raspberries (1 cup, 8 grams)
Apples (1 med., 3.3 grams)
Spinach (1/2 cup, 3.5 grams)
Figs and dates (1/4 cup, 3.6 grams)
Oranges (1 med., 3.1 grams)
Broccoli (1 cup cooked, 5.1 grams)
Green beans (1 cup cooked, 4 grams)
Split peas (1 cup cooked) – 16.3 grams)

By adding these fiber-rich foods slowly over a period of time to your diet, you will go a long way to better health and vitality. A decided bonus to adding more fiber to your diet is that you feel fuller longer after a meal, which helps curb over-eating and thus weight gain.