What you need to know about fiber and why you need it.
Fiber is that key nutrient our bodies need to regulate our appetite, boost digestive health by preventing or relieving constipation, help maintain a healthy weight, and lower our risk of diabetes and heart disease. How does it do that, exactly? It depends on the different kinds of fiber that we ingest through our food:
Soluble Fiber is found in food like oats, legumes (think beans, lentils, peanuts, and peas), fruits like apples, oranges, grapefruits, and mangoes, and vegetables like turnips, sweet potatoes, and asparagus. Soluble fiber dissolves in your body and becomes gel-like, and lowers your blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Dietitians recommend 21-38 grams of fiber everyday for adults over 18. See a more detailed list of good sources of soluble fiber here.
Insoluble fiber is like our body’s tool for cleaning up trash and junk. Since our bodies can’t break it down or digest it, it sweeps through the digestive track, collecting waste as it goes. Having enough of it means regular and healthy bowel movement and less chances of constipation and hemorrhoids. It’s found in whole grains like bran, beans and legumes (especially kidney beans), the edible skins of vegetables, and veggies like broccoli, bell peppers, and carrots. You can also find them in fruits, especially when you keep the skin on: apples, pears, and strawberries are high in this type of fiber.
Get more fiber, stat.
If you’re guilty of being a protein-and-carbohydrates-only type of person, you may already be suffering from indigestion and constipation, and you could be on the road to high cholesterol and heart disease. Before that happens, get your eating habits in check and add more fiber to your meals thanks to these little tweaks.
It makes a bigger difference than you’d think—1/2 cup of white flour contains 1.3 grams of fiber, while an equal serving of whole-wheat flour contains 6.4 grams. If you can, switch the white pastas for whole wheat, too. Most groceries have them available these days, so it’ll be easy to find.
Eat beans as a side dish to your proteins, as toppings on your salad, or better yet, substitute them for rice! This way, you get to cut down on your carbohydrate intake while getting your daily fiber needs.
Love rice but hate veggies? For every one cup of rice, substitute half the cup with 1/2 cup of veggies. Diced peas and carrots, or finely chopped cruciferous veggies are great for this trick. This “extender” technique will also help lessen your carb intake while getting your daily fiber, vitamins, and minerals needs met.
A study found that apples are high in pectin, which is a kind of soluble fiber. It makes you feel full for longer and is slowly digested by your body.
The health benefits are endless—plus, it’s a great base to eat with your daily recommended amount of fruits, protein (if you add nuts), and calcium (from your milk or yogurt).