Fiber - What is it, why we need it and how to get it.
I'm sure we've all heard of fiber and probably know we are supposed to be getting it in daily, but why, how much, and how can we increase our fiber intake?
Fiber comes from plants and is the part of the plant that our body does not completely absorb. It passes through our digestive system mostly intact but does some pretty awesome things along the way. There are two types of fiber - Soluble and Insoluble.
Soluble fiber mixes with water and becomes a gel-like substance in our digestive system. When this happens, it slows our digestion making it more possible for us to absorb vital nutrients from food. If we don't have enough fiber, food passes through our digestive system so quickly that we miss out on important nutrients. A few foods that contain soluble fiber are: beans, cauliflower, oats, lentils, apples, and carrots.
Insoluble Fiber combines with other foods and speeds up digestion. It stays in tact during digestion and promotes bowel regularity which is important for a healthy digestive system. A few foods that contain insoluble fiber are: wheat, whole grains, potatoes, nuts, berries, and flaxseed.
It's important to get a mixture of both insoluble and soluble fiber in order to keep our digestive system happy and healthy. Without enough fiber, we may experience constipation and increased hunger as fiber helps to keep us full. Studies also relate a diet high in fiber to
a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. It can help lower cholesterol and can be used to treat diabetes.
So YES! Fiber is important and something we MUST include in our diets!
Now, how much fiber do I need and how can we get in more?
The National Institutes of Health recommends that adult women eat a minimum of 25 grams of fiber a day and that adult males eat 38 grams of fiber, while adult women 51 years or older should consume 21 grams and adult men 51 years or older should consume 30 grams daily.
If you're not used to consuming a lot of fiber, it's a good idea to increase slowly. Adding too much too quickly can cause bloating, cramping or diarrhea. Staying hydrated can help to reduce the chances of any of the above happening.
A few ways to start incorporating fiber are:
Eat more whole grains - whole grain bread, pasta, rice etc.
Add in beans - legumes are a great source of fiber and can be added to many meals.
Up your veggie intake - throw some greens in your smoothies, add veggies to soups, increase your veggies serving at dinner, just eat more greens!
Focus on higher fiber fruits - think apples, berries, and mangoes
Fiber for snacks - including fiber in your snacks can help you to increase your daily intake while keeping you full longer. Instead of just an apple, have an apple with peanut butter or a smoothie with kale.
Bottom line, don't forget about fiber! Aim to get in those 25 grams everyday and you might just notice some awesome side effects :-)