Healthcare tips

The Power of Fiber

Most doctors and dietitians will tell you to eat more fiber. Yes, fiber does help keep you regular but there are many more benefits than that. Foods containing fiber can provide so many health benefits, including maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your risk of diabetes, heart disease and even some types of cancer. Let’s dive into what fiber is, how it keeps us healthy, and how much we need each day. 

Dietary fiber is a nutrient found in plant foods. It is the part of the plant your body can’t break down and digest. Other kinds of food particles, like fats, sugars, and protein are broken down and absorbed by the intestines. Since fiber can’t be digested, it passes through your intestines and out your colon. The fiber you eat may be soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. It can be found in foods like oats, beans, apples, and citrus fruits. Soluble fiber can make you feel full long after you eat and can slow the absorption of sugar so your blood sugar levels stay even. Insoluble fiber is what bulks up your stool to make you more regular. It’s helpful for constipation or irregularity. Whole-wheat flour or bran, nuts, beans, and many vegetables are all good sources of insoluble fiber.

So how much fiber is enough? In general, women 50 years old or younger should eat 25 grams of fiber, and men should eat 38 grams of fiber a day. Once you turn 51, women should eat 21 grams of fiber and men should eat 30 grams of fiber per day. Getting fiber through your diet is best as it comes with other nutrients your body needs, but supplements and fortified foods are an option if getting fiber through diet alone is a struggle. 

If you are looking to add more fiber to your diet, start with breakfast. A bowl of oatmeal with nuts or a fiber fortified cereal are both good choices. For lunch try a kale salad, soup full of barley or beans, or a sandwich made with whole wheat bread. Dinner could incorporate brown or wild rice, whole wheat pasta or whole wheat tortillas. 

A diet full of fiber is so important for maintaining optimal health. From supporting regularity and aiding weight management to promoting heart health and blood sugar control, the benefits of fiber are diverse and impactful. By embracing a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, you can take advantage of all the benefits of fiber.

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