All You Need to Know About Fiber
Fiber is a component of food and a healthy diet that is often overlooked. We are so caught up in protein, carbs, and fat that we neglect fiber! And with all the craze lately for a low carbohydrate diet, fiber is getting significantly reduced in the typical diet. But what exactly IS fiber? Dietary fiber is a non digestible carbohydrate form that are from plant sources. Other common names for “fiber” are cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin, lignin, beta-glucans and more. These are all under the “fiber” umbrella and are all plant components. These all have their own functions in the plants (think cereals, grains, fruits, and veggies), and when we consume plants, we get the fibrous benefits.
Why is it important that we have fiber? These components do several things in our bodies like delaying stomach emptying (aka keeping you fuller longer), providing PREbiotics to our but bacteria and supporting a healthy gut, help rid your body of toxins through more frequent bowel movements (yes, this is one of the only legit ways to actually get rid of toxins), lowering cholesterol uptake by binding cholesterol in your intestines, stabilizing blood sugar response, and altering digestion time (more on this below). Along with all these benefits, increased fiber needs are particularly important with cancer risk. Getting adequate amounts of fiber can significantly decrease risk for colon, stomach, and GI tract cancers!! And with colon cancer being the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S., we should not take fiber intake lightly.
RECOMMENDED DAILY FIBER INTAKE:
The recommended daily fiber intake for men is 38 grams per day, due to colon cancer being a particular concern with men. The recommended about of fiber per day for women is 25 grams per day. To give you a frame of reference… 25 grams of fiber would be about 1/2 cup of steel cut oatmeal (10 grams) and 1/2 cup of black beans (15 grams). Without grains or beans, it would be about 7.5 cups of Brussel sprouts…. yikes. Another reason not to neglect your common carbohydrates like beans, cereals, and grains - they provide SO many nutrients, while also being packed with fiber you NEED.
There are two main classifications of fiber for our purposes: soluble and insoluble fiber. The tricky part about these classifications is that foods typically contain BOTH kinds of fiber. However, some have more soluble or insoluble fiber than others. Below we will discuss exactly what foods these are and how each kind of fiber benefits our bodies.
Soluble fiber can help slow down the time it takes for your food to digest through your small intestine and decrease overall cholesterol by binding cholesterol and helping eliminate it from your body so that it is not absorbed.
Soluble fiber sources include:
Apples, bananas, blueberries, blackberries, oranges, pears & prunes
Oatmeal, barley, brown rice & ground flaxseed
Beans, lentils, edamame, & hummus
Nuts and seeds
Carrots, broccoli, brussel sprouts & spinach
Insoluble fiber speeds up the digestion time of your food and helps you “go to the bathroom” more frequently (which is a GOOD thing). Finding yourself constipated? Think about adding some of these insoluble fibers to your routine - but remember that BOTH classifications of fiber will be helpful for more frequent bowel movements.
Insoluble fiber sources include:
Stems and seeds of fruits and vegetables
Whole grains (the bran layer contains the insoluble components)
Nuts and legumes such as beans
Root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, onions, turnips, radishes)
As you can tell from the list of foods above in both categories, there are several that contain both classifications of fiber! With the goal of 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men, these foods can slowly be added in to help you reach your fiber intake goals and increase overall health. Additionally, I hope this list was eye-opening to see how whole grains, beans, and fruits and vegetables are significantly impact our health. That is exactly why they’re at the foundation of a healthy diet. Want to know what else to include in the foundation for the healthiest diet? Find out more HERE.