Focus on Fiber
Lauren Simmons RD, LD
We have all heard that we should add more fiber into our diets. In fact, the majority of Americans don’t even come close to getting the recommended 40 grams of fiber each day. As a clinical dietitian, I see a lot of patients who aren’t even sure where fiber comes from, why it is important and how they can add more of it to their diets. Let’s start with the basics. Fiber is found in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans.
Fiber is not digestible in the body and actually slows down digestion so that your body can absorb more nutrients from the food you eat. There are two different types of fiber that we need to include in our diets every day. They are soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber absorbs water and turns into a gel like substance. If you have ever heard that fiber can reduce cholesterol, you have soluble fiber to thank! Soluble fiber attaches to cholesterol particles and sweeps them out of your body. This in turn, helps lower your chances of heart disease. Foods that are especially rich in soluble fiber include: oatmeal, nuts, beans, apples and blueberries.
Insoluble fiber helps keep you regular and is often referred to as “nature’s broom”. Insoluble fiber is your best chance at combating constipation. Foods rich in insoluble fiber include: seeds, the skins of fruit, whole wheat bread and brown rice. What are some other benefits of fiber? Because it is not well absorbed by our bodies, it does not contribute to blood sugar spikes. This is especially important for people with diabetes as fiber can help keep blood sugar levels under control. Fiber also keeps us full longer which contributes to weight loss or can help you maintain a healthy weight.
How can you add more fiber into your diet? Start by making at least half of the grains you eat whole grains. Switch to a 100% whole wheat bread, eat oatmeal a few times a week and try brown rice instead of white. Start adding a piece of fruit to every meal you eat. Try snacking on nuts and seeds. Add beans to salads, burritos and soups.
When in doubt, make sure that half of your plate is filled with fruits and vegetables. With these simple changes, you will be on your way to having a fiber filled diet! Trust me, your body will thank you.