Dietary fiber is absolutely essential when it comes to improving digestion. To simply say, "eat more fiber" can sound cliche, so please allow me to explain how it can help you or a loved one. Do you know why fiber is so good for digestive health? This plant-based nutrient can be found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and many legumes (e.g lentils). Incorporating fiber from these natural sources can help one maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk for Diabetes, Heart disease, and some types of Cancer. When selecting foods that contain fiber, you want to approach it with self-awareness and intentionality. That way you can rule out exactly how to add this into some of your meals or snacks. Dietary fiber includes the parts your body cannot digest or absorb. Unlike other food components, such as fats, carbpohydrates, or proteins, this nutrient is not digested.
On the contrary, the fiber passes through your stomach, small intestine, colon, then out of your body. Fiber is classified as soluble, which dissolves in water and insoluble which is basically the opposite. Some sources of soluble fiber include: oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium. Insoluble fiber includes foods such as: whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, legumes, cauliflower, green beans, potatoes, etc. The amount of soluble and insoluble fiber varies in different plant foods. To maximize the benefit of including this nutrient into your diet, eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods.
If you are wondering what other benefits are attained with adequate fiber, it includes the following:
- Normalizes bowel movements
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Helps control blood sugar levels
- Aids in achieving healthy weight
- Helps you live longer
Now, how much fiber would a person actually need? If you are age 50 or younger, men require 38 grams of fiber, and women require 25 grams. On the other hand, if you are age 50 or older, men need 30 grams of fiber, and women need 21 grams of fiber. This is in accordance to the Institute of Medicine.
Need some tips to jumpstart your fiber intake? Then, please allow us to recommend the following:
- Switch to whole grains
- Eat more legumes
- Eat more fruit and vegetables
- Choose snacks carefully
Remember, at the end of the day...anything in excess is bad for your digestive health. Adding too much fiber too fast may cause intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. We recommend that you increase your fiber gradually for best results. This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change.
Lastly, do not forget to drink enough water. Fiber works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky.