Dietary Fiber: Know Your Macronutrients
When working hard to achieve a healthy diet, individuals usually think about the balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. But dietary fiber plays an important role. Get to know your macronutrients and start your diet for healthy living.
When trying to achieve a healthful diet, individuals tend to think about the balance of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. But fiber, an essential component found in most carbohydrates, tends to become overlooked. Prepare the ultimate diet approach and meal plate by getting to know your macronutrients, dietary fiber included!
What is Dietary Fiber?
Dietary fiber is a component of found in plants that cannot be absorbed or digested within the body. Instead of being used for energy, fiber remains mostly intact and travels down the gastrointestinal tract. Dietary fiber is further divided into two forms - soluble and insoluble fiber.
Think of soluble fiber as a sponge, having the ability to absorb with water and create a gel-like substance. When this type of fiber is ingested, it can bind with cholesterol and excrete it from the body, ultimately paralleling with the health statement "Eat fiber to reduce cholesterol." Soluble fiber is found in those recognized cholesterol-lowering Cheerios along with oats and beans.
Unlike soluble fiber, insoluble fiber remains entirely in form and does not bind to water. This type of fiber is associated with bowel health, as its intake contributes to stool bulk and promotes regularity. Nuts, fibrous vegetables and popcorn are recognized sources of insoluble fiber.
Dietary Fiber Recommendations and Sources
General fiber recommendations vary between genders - 38 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women. Surprisingly, the average fiber intake is about 15 grams per day! To reach adequate, recommended amounts, take a bite of these 15 fiber-rich foods:
*Adapted from USDA's National Nutrient Database
**When increasing fiber content, it is also important to increase water intake to prevent gastrointestinal discomfort and constipation!
Benefits of Fiber
Promote Bowel Health
As previously mentioned, fiber (predominantly insoluble fiber) promotes bowel health and regularity. Adequate intake of fiber has shown to reduce the risk of diseases of the colon, hemorrhoids and colon cancer.
Decrease the Risk of Heart Disease
Unmanaged and elevated cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. Consuming soluble fiber works to reduce cholesterol levels and keep them within a healthy range.
Facilitate Weight Loss and Maintain Weight
High-fiber foods are generally low in calories and tend to be more filling than non-fiber foods. The combination of low-calorie and satiety may facilitate weight loss and/or encourage weight maintenance.
Control Blood Sugar
Consistent carbohydrate intake along with its high-fiber content can help manage and control blood sugars. It is important, though, to choose nutrient and fiber-rich sources (whole grains and fresh produce) over sugary desserts and candies.