Fiber is a very important nutrient, and it generally lacks in today’s diets due to the high amount of processed foods consumed. As society shifted away from fruits and vegetables and began to buy more of the products now available in the supermarket aisles, fiber consumption has decreased.
Fiber comes from plant cells and it cannot be broken down by our digestive system, so it goes through your body undigested. So you might ask… why should I even bother eating fiber then? Right?
Well, let me first explain the 2 types of fiber – soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber absorbs water while it’s being digested and it slows digestion down. Since it delays stomach emptying, it will help you feel full longer (this is one of the reasons why many people trying to lose weight are recommended to increase their fiber intake). Soluble fiber can also interfere with the absorption of dietary cholesterol, which can help to lower your cholesterol levels (your “bad” LDL cholesterol).
Sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, oat cereal, beans, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, strawberries, blueberries, carrots, celery, nuts, and flaxseed. (There are more, but these are the most common ones).
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, cannot be dissolved in water so it does not change while passing through the digestive tract. It has a “laxative” effect by helping things move along in your intestines, which can help many people with constipation.
Sources of insoluble fiber include whole wheat/whole grain products, wheat bran, nuts, seeds, barley, couscous, brown rice, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, dark leafy vegetables, and fruits with edible peels.
They help keep your digestive system healthy, and they are thought to help prevent many diseases.
For good health and overall wellbeing, fiber needs to be present in your diet.
I just wanted to share with you some ideas to include more fiber in your diet:
Switch to brown rice, and whole grain breads and pastas! White rice, white breads and pastas are not sources of fiber. That is why you can eat so much more of it. It does not contain that fiber that can slow everything down and keep you full longer.
Switch to a high fiber cereal! Those sugary cereals your kids love might have no or very little fiber. Find one with more fiber that will keep you full longer
Choose snacks higher in fiber – fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains, veggies with hummus, homemade trailmix, and edamame are great examples.
Add ground flaxseed meal to your oatmeal, yogurt, and even salads. It does not have a bad taste and it will add very valuable nutrients to your meals.
Add beans to your salad – great source of fiber! Use hummus instead of mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, etc. on sandwiches or wraps Very tasty way of making a healthier choices. Add pureed cauliflower to mashed potatoes. Really does not taste bad at all. Use sweet potato too if you can.
And simply eat more fruits and vegetables every day. Your body needs these nutrients. Your body needs the fiber. You will notice changes when you incorporate these foods into your diet. There are definitely more ways of adding fiber, but I just wanted to share some easy ones that you can quickly incorporate into your routine.
There are, however, some things you need to consider when increasing your fiber intake.
You need to increase the amount of water you drink. Crucial! For everything to move through your intestines the proper way, you need enough fluids available for the whole process.
Also, increase the amount of fiber in your diet SLOWLY. If you are not used to eating fiber and one day you decide to consume the recommended amount (about 25-35 grams per day), your body will not tolerate it very well. You need to increase it slowly, and the increase in fiber should go along with the increase in water. If you do not incorporate the fiber slowly and with increased water consumption, you might get cramping, pain, and other unpleasant symptoms.
It will also be important to spread your fiber intake throughout the day. Don’t plan on having 15-20 grams of fiber in your breakfast, and then just a few more grams at night. Spread it out through all your meals to get better benefits from this and to prevent that cramping and pain I mentioned previously.
So go ahead and try some of these tips. Remember to go slowly, so maybe add one of these per week to your diet, along with enough water.
This will definitely be another great step in the journey to a healthier you.