January is National Fiber Focus Month, which makes it the perfect time to learn more about the benefits of fiber and how to increase your intake. First, let’s briefly discuss what fiber is. It’s a form of carbohydrate that your body can’t break down into usable energy. It’s broken down into insoluble and soluble fiber, which we will get into in the next section!
Types of Fiber
1. Insoluble fiber aims to keep your intestinal tract healthy by attracting water into the intestine, softening your stool. It will also reduce the amount of time that food sits in your intestinal tract. You want this to happen because if food sits there too long it can cause constipation.
- Food sources: wheat bran, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
2. Soluble fiber also softens your stool and ferments in the intestines to produce healthy gut bacteria. This enhances your immune system to fight infection and chronic disease.
- Food sources: dried beans, peas, lentils, oats, barley, fruits, and vegetables like carrots and squash
Adding fiber to your daily diet can have many positive benefits:
- Increase Satiation: Fiber helps to keep you feeling full for longer. You will find yourself more satisfied with meals higher in fiber.
- Improved Regularity: Increasing your total fiber intake will help improve overall bowel regularity. You’ll find you will begin having bowel movements on a regular schedule with little or no discomfort! Just be sure to also increase your water intake to prevent an impaction!
- Reduced Cholesterol Levels – soluble fiber can help lower your total dietary cholesterol by reducing the total amount of dietary cholesterol your body absorbs during digestion!
5 Ways to Add More Fiber to your Diet
For healthy adults the recommended fiber intake is 32 grams per day. However, the average fiber intake of most Americans is about 15 grams per day, which is less than half of the recommendation. It is time for change!
1) Eat more fruits and vegetables-Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber. Use a spiralizer to make high fiber “noodles/zoodles” out of zucchini or carrots.
2) Enjoy nuts atsnack time– Enjoy a variety of nuts in between meals. Nuts contain fiber, protein, and healthy fats, which will keep you full to your next meal!
3) Experiment withLentils– These legumes are easy to cook and contain 8 grams of fiber in ½ cup! Add them to salads, soups, stews and rice. You can also buy lentil pasta!
4) Includewhole grain food choices– Whole grain and 100% whole-wheat pasta, breads, etc. are high in fiber. Since they are minimally processed, they retain the bran, which contains all of the fiber (unlike white pastas and breads). When you have the choice, always opt for whole grain!
5) Fiber up yourbreakfast– Begin your day with a high fiber cereal like oatmeal and add some fresh berries and touch of peanut butter, sprinkle with cinnamon for a delicious, fiber-filled way to start your day!
Remember, fiber doesn’t always mean eating whole wheat bread. It also means eating more fruits, vegetables and legumes. There are plenty of ways to increase your fiber intake so get creative!
Your Turn to Take Action:How will you add more fiber to your diet? Share in the comments below.