Should I add more fiber to my diet?
Tuesday, December 28, 2021
If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably not getting enough fiber in your diet. There are good reasons to add more fiber to your diet. Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Instead, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine and colon, and helps to clean out your body. By ensuring you have enough fiber in your diet, you can help prevent the following:
Heart disease: Fiber helps lower your cholesterol.
Diabetes: Fiber helps control blood sugar levels.
Digestive Problems: Fiber helps to prevent constipation and hemorrhoids.
Weight Gain: A high-fiber diet is lower in calories and tends to make you feel full faster.
Olivia Barclay, R.N., Genesis Diabetes Nutrition & Education, says, “The average middle-aged man should be consuming 38 grams of dietary fiber a day and 25 grams is the recommendation for women. Most Americans consume only about sixteen grams a day on average.” Getting a range of fiber types in your diet is essential. Barclay recommends eating various fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains daily to meet your dietary fiber goal.
“The bottom line is to eat a variety of plant-based foods that will help keep your gut healthy and help with your overall health.”
The FDA considers dietary fiber a nutrient of public health concern because low consumption is associated with many potential health problems. One problem is constipation, the most reported gastrointestinal complaint in the United States. Research shows not enough fiber in your diet can also lead to an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Dietary fiber, the indigestible part of plant material, is made up of two main types: soluble fiber, which quickly dissolves in water and is broken down into a gel-like substance in the colon, and insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water and is left intact as food moves through the gastrointestinal tract.
Soluble fibers are found in beans, lentils and apples that help the body absorb water from partially digested food and slow digestion, making you feel fuller longer and regulate blood sugar. By adding soluble fiber to your diet, you can lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol and glucose levels. Oats and barley have FDA-approved health claims for reducing cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol. Oatmeal is a great fiber source, but if you choose a different ready-to-eat breakfast cereal, make sure whole grain is the first ingredient and check the amount of dietary fiber per serving. Insoluble fibers can help because they move food through your body and help keep your bowel movements regular. They are found in whole wheat bran and some whole grains, nuts and legumes.
Knowing the vital role dietary fibers play in your health will help you make better choices about the foods you eat. Barclay says, “The bottom line is to eat a variety of plant-based foods that will help keep your gut healthy and help with your overall health.”