Most of us know why consuming fiber is so important for a happy and healthy body. Sadly, Americans are only averaging 50-60% of the recommended amounts. According to the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) from the National Academy of Sciences women aged 50 and younger should get 25 grams/day, men should have 38 grams/day, men and women 50 years+ should get 30 and 21 grams respectively.
But first lets chat about what fiber is. Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It is the portion of plants that can’t be enzymatically digested (non-digestible carbohydrates). While fiber is historically classified based on its solubility in water (soluble or insoluble) research demonstrates that fiber can be categorized based on its physiological effects.
Viscous fibers for example form a gel in the intestinal tract, which can lower LDL cholesterol and slow absorption of carbohydrate, thus reducing the rise in blood sugar after meals. Consuming 5 to 10g of soluble fiber per day reduces LDL cholesterol levels by approximately 5%. Bile (which contains toxins and cholesterol) binds to this gel and is eliminated through our gi tract. Foods that contain this fiber include oats, oat bran, lentils, peas, sweet potatoes, chia seeds, flax seeds, mushrooms, beans, apples and strawberries. Keep in mind that instant oats can elevate blood sugar so choose steel-cut oats when possible.
Examples of Foods+Soluble Fiber Content
1 cup of black beans contains 4.8 g of soluble fiber
A bowl of oatmeal made from 3/4 cup of dry oats contains 3 g of soluble fiber
1/2 cup Brussels Sprouts contain 2 g of soluble fiber
1 Tbsp flaxseeds contain 1.1 g soluble fiber
1 small orange contains 1.8 g soluble fiber
Fermentable fibers also known as “prebiotics” are used by our gut bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids, which in turn can help regulate inflammation, metabolism and disease. Some examples include dandelion greens, chicory root, leeks, bananas, asparagus, garlic and onions.
Insoluble (non-fermentable) fiber add bulk to stools and can can be found in quinoa, wheat bran, whole wheat, most vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Most plant foods however contain a combination of fibers and nutrients that work synergistically to help our bodies fight disease and keep us in tip top shape. In order to reap their health benefits and consume adequate fiber we need to eat a variety of plants.
Here are some tips to help you add more fiber to your meals:
* Add 1/2 cup of black beans to your egg dish
* Add 1-2 Tbsp ground flaxseed to your smoothie or oatmeal
* Add your favorite seeds/nuts to a salad
* Include peas, mushrooms and beans the next time you make soup
* Snack on a handful of your favorite nuts or seeds
* Add some avocado to your sandwich or salad
* Choose whole grain bread instead of the refined version
* Make half your meal plant-based
* Choose a smoothie over juice to include more fiber (watch the amount of fruit and add more greens)
Wishing you Happy & Healthy Cravings! 🙂