By: Crystal Flores, RD
Fiber, fiber, fiber…eat more fiber! We hear this everywhere from commercials to the doctor’s office, but why? Fiber provides us with a number of health promoting benefits. Fiber helps to fill us up without adding calories, which is always a bonus when it comes to weight loss. We do not digest fiber, hence why it does not contribute to caloric intake. It goes in and it goes out. It grabs onto cholesterol in our intestines, allowing us to eliminate it rather than absorb it, lowering our blood cholesterol levels. Fiber also absorbs a large amount of water, keeping our digestion regular. It even slows the digestion of carbohydrates, stabilizing blood sugar levels. High fiber diets have been linked to the prevention of diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
Where do we find fiber? We find it in our plant-based foods such as whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. All of which are components of a healthy diet. At this point in our nutrition challenge, you should already be incorporating many of these foods into your everyday eating.
How much fiber do we need? Women under 50 need at least 25 grams per day and men under 50 need at least 38. Children ages 3-18 years need 5 grams plus their age (so a three year old needs 8 grams daily).
When increasing the fiber in your diet, it is important to do this slowly. Rapidly increasing your daily fiber intake can cause gas and bloating until your body adjusts. It is also important to ensure enough fluids.
Here are some ideas to boost your daily fiber intake:
- Choose whole grain breads with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and cereal with at least 5 grams per serving.
- Leave the skin on produce when able. For example, eat the skin of the apple and potato.
- Sprinkle ground flax seeds or wheat germ on your yogurt.
- Have a bowel of oatmeal in the morning.
- Chew your fruit rather than drink it.
- When baking, replace 50% of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour.
- Eat more lentils, beans and peas.
- Choose whole wheat pasta.