When it comes to healthy eating, and creating a meal plan that promotes nutrition and sustenance, it can be hard to find where to start. It is all too common to be consumed by advertisements and articles claiming this diet is better than that one, you need to eat this and not that, and so on. No matter what your resolution may be -- to lose weight or eat clean -- adding or keeping fiber in your diet is essential to your nutritional goals.
What is fiber?
Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that has important health benefits including reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes, lowering cholesterol, and preventing constipation.
Fiber can be found in foods such as:
- Whole grains
- Legumes and beans
Why is fiber good for you?
Eating a high-fiber diet can:
Slow the rate of blood sugar absorbing into the blood stream. The sugar from high-fiber foods such as beans and whole grains is absorbed slower, keeping your glucose levels from rising too quickly. This also slows the feeling of hunger, which is why when you eat nutrient-rich ingredients like whole grains and beans, you feel more full for longer periods of time.
Clean your colon for better gut health. Fiber helps to clear out bacteria from your intestines -- ultimately reducing risks for colon cancer.
Help keep you regular to avoid constipation. Fiber helps you to have soft and regular bowel movements.
Additional health benefits of a high-fiber diet include:
- Losing weight
- Maintaining a healthier weight
- Living longer
- Getting a natural detox from toxins and bacteria
- Building strong bones and good health
Types of fiber and where to get it
Fiber is divided into two categories: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water giving your stomach a gel-like substance that bacteria later breaks down. Soluble fiber aids in lowering LDL cholesterol and slowing the absorption of carbohydrates, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels, as mentioned in the benefits of a high-fiber diet. Soluble fibers can be found in foods such as beans, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and oats.
Unlike soluble fiber, insoluble fiber passes through the GI tract without creating that gel-like substance and provides no calories. This type of fiber, however, is what can help you avoid build-up and constipation. Insoluble fibers can be found in foods such as fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and nuts.
How incorporate fiber in your diet, and how much
The daily recommendations of fiber in a diet varies with age and gender. Men younger than 50 should aim to get about 38 grams of fiber in their diet, and those over 50 should aim to get 30 grams. Women under the age of 50 should aim to get 25 grams of fiber in their diet, and those over 50 should aim get 21 grams.
Whole-grain breads and cereals are a great place to start for increasing the daily fiber in your family's diet. You should also increase your fruit and vegetable intake -- especially if you hardly eat these foods usually. Beans and brown rice can also help to increase your fiber intake while still being mindful and nutritious.
Tips for more fiber in your day
Fitting more fiber in your day is easy if you do it throughout the day. For breakfast, start off with a high fiber cereal. Switch breads to whole-grain options, and swap out white rice with brown, and regular pasta with whole-wheat. Baked goods are the perfect opportunity to increase the fiber with whole-grain flour, without taking away from taste. As with any diet, increasing your fruits and vegetables are a step in the right direction. And while snacking isn't recommended all day, every day, you can make your snacks count by including nuts, whole-grain crackers, or popcorn.
Increasing your fiber intake is important, but it's even more important to do it over time to avoid bloating and gas. Drinking plenty of water will help your body adjust to the increase in fiber nutrients in your diet.
Start with your primary care provider
As with any change in your diet and routine, the best place to start is by checking in with your primary care provider. A wellness visit (or yearly check-up) is a great opportunity to find out where you're at nutritionally, and how you can better yourself and your nutrition in the best way possible. Not all "diets" or diet changes are for everyone. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you, and how you can become your best self.
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