The benefits of fiber are many.
A recent study by the National Institutes of Health showed a 22-percent drop in the risk of death in people who consumed a moderate amount of fiber (26 grams/day) compared to people who ate a low amount of fiber (13 grams/day).
In general, fiber helps reduce disease risk, keeps blood sugar stable, improves digestive regularity, and helps keep us full.
How do we increase fiber intake? First, try swapping one high-fiber food for one low-fiber food each day. This is easy to do at meals by including whole-grain carbohydrates such as brown rice for white rice, or a higher fiber bread. Or choose a higher fiber snack such as raw vegetables and dip.
When fiber is eaten, it is undigested and moves into the intestinal tract unchanged. It then either stays, or moves on the next section of intestine, finally exiting the body with fecal matter. The speed at which it moves depends on the amount of food eaten, the type of fiber included, and other digestive issues according to the individual. Soluble fiber stays in the gut, absorbing fluid and fermenting as it waits to exit. It forms “bulk” to the stool and can cause gas and bloating if introduced to the diet too dramatically. Insoluble fiber helps with the movement of stool through the gut, and speeds up this process. Though they play different roles, we need both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Top 5 Fiber Foods
Eat more fiber by purchasing the following foods as a habit. Change your grocery list around and consume these high-fiber foods regularly:
- Beans. With both fiber and protein, beans can help control blood sugars. You get five grams of fiber in a 1/2 cup. Dried beans are great, but when you’re in a pinch, rinse canned beans and buy the no salt added version to avoid high levels of sodium.
- Oatmeal. A great breakfast or anytime food! Oatmeal provides four grams of fiber per cup and due to its high proportion of soluble fiber, oatmeal can help reduce both cholesterol and blood sugar.
- Nuts. Almonds have one of the highest fiber amounts at three to four grams per one-ounce serving. Also in this category is flaxseed, both ground and whole. A 1/2 -ounce serving (two tablespoons) packs four to five grams. Add flaxseed to yogurt, oatmeal, or other breakfast cereal, or in baked foods such as pancakes. If you consume it as ground or milled flaxseed, you also will be getting a great source of omega 3 healthy fats.
- Berries. Raspberries and blackberries win in the fiber category! They each provide about eight grams of fiber per cup at only about 65 calories spent! Add the powerful antioxidants that these berries provide, and this food is a no-brainer. As a comparison, bananas, oranges and apples come in around four grams per one-cup serving.
- Broccoli. Most vegetables are great for packing fiber and broccoli is no different! One cup of steamed broccoli provides over five grams of fiber. Eat it raw and one cup provides only 2 1/2 grams. Why? When broccoli is cooked, it shrinks, so there is more in a one-cup serving cooked than if you filled a one cup measure with the raw version. Steam in as little water as possible, to avoid cooking out the nutrients!
Make changes one at a time to allow your system a chance to grow accustomed to the increased amount of fiber in your diet. Drink plenty of water when you introduce more fiber, and you will experience better results!