Fiber: Get the Facts, Why You Need it and Fun Food Ideas
What is the importance of fiber and is a high fiber diet really all it's cracked up to be? Our nutrition experts and dietitians say "Yes!" - Here are the reasons why and a list of food sources to help you get more fiber into your diet!
What do whole grains, legumes, and fruits and veggies all have in common? Although "healthy" is a commonality among them, they are also fiber-rich foods which further contributes to their health status. But what really is the importance of fiber and the benefits of a high-fiber diet? Is fiber-rich food really all it is cracked up to be? Nutrition experts and dietitians say "Yes!" and here is why!
What is Fiber?
When most foods are consumed, they are digested and absorbed for energy. However, dietary fiber is a plant component that is unable to be digested by the body. The fate of the plant is ultimately dictated by the type, as fiber comes in two forms, soluble and insoluble fiber. When you think of soluble fiber, think of a sponge. When soluble fiber is consumed, it combines and absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance. Unlike soluble fiber, insoluble fiber does not dissolve and absorb with water. Instead, it stays relatively intact and can be thought as roughage and bulk-forming in the gut and intestinal tract.
Benefits of Fiber and Why You Need It
Fiber promotes bowel health and regularity, especially thanks to "bulk-forming" insoluble fiber sources. Additionally, fiber may reduce the risk of developing diseases of the colon, hemorrhoids, and colorectal cancer.
Decrease Heart Disease
Soluble fiber can decrease the opportunity for heart disease related to its "sponge-like" characteristic. Thinking back to the sponge analogy, soluble fiber can help "soak" up cholesterol and excrete it from the body. With high cholesterol contributing to heart disease, eating soluble fiber can help reduce cholesterol levels.
Foods high in fiber are relatively low in calories and more filling compared to foods lesser in fiber. Since you are likely more apt to eat less and stay sustained longer while following a high-fiber diet, weight loss may follow.
Control Blood Sugar
High fiber foods are often rich in carbohydrate and individuals assume carb intake should be low when managing diabetes. However, blood sugar control benefits from consistent carb intake along with fiber. Choose whole grains, dairy products, and fruits and veggies over sugary desserts and drinks.
Getting in Daily Fiber
The benefits can only be acquired if consuming dietary fiber is put into practice. Since fiber is widely available, getting the recommended 25 to 38 grams per day does not need to be a tough undertaking. Take a bite out of these high-fiber food ideas:
Oats and Berries
Oats are an excellent source of soluble fiber, as one cup of cooked oats contains about 4 grams. For added sweetness and fiber, combine oats with berries. Fresh raspberries and strawberries contains an average of 6 grams of fiber per one cup. This breakfast is not only rich in fiber, but powerful antioxidants.
Use Greek yogurt as a blank canvas for numerous fiber-containing ingredients! Add on bananas, raisins, and desired nuts and seeds for a protein packed breakfast or snack.
Hummus and Veggies
Hummus is made from chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, and is a good source of fiber and protein. Use high-fiber veggies such as carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers for a nutritious and convenient snack!
Popcorn is a poppin' good source of insoluble fiber, the type that contributes to roughage and bulk. Instead of saturating popcorn with butter and salt, use your own desired seasoning creations to reduce calorie and sodium intake without negotiating flavor.
Potatoes sometimes get a bad reputation. However, they are an excellent source of potassium and fiber (eat the skin)! Instead of loading the potato up with high-fat butter, sour cream, and bacon, dress it up with fresh veggies, lean chicken, and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt. Although a little untraditional, your taste buds will not be disappointed!
Lentils, black beans, whole wheat spaghetti noodles, barley, pecans, oranges, figs, brussels sprouts, and green peas are just a handful of other notorious fiber sources. Additionally, it is important to keep hydrated when consuming and increasing fiber to reduce the risk of constipation.