Do you consume enough fiber each day? If you are like most Americans, then you probably consume about 10 to 15 grams of fiber a day. Unfortunately, this is just not enough. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), we should actually be eating anywhere from 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day.
What exactly is fiber? Fiber is the element in plants (like fruits, vegetables and whole grains) that our bodies do not digest. Fiber is different from most foods that we eat in that, unlike most foods which are absorbed and digested, fiber is not absorbed or digested. It actually passes quickly through your digestive tract, mostly intact, and it is not broken down like other foods. The fact that fiber is mostly left intact is a good thing as it creates bulk which aids in moving stool and harmful carcinogens through the digestive tract. Without enough fiber in your diet, you will have irregularity, constipation, and sluggishness. Insufficient fiber can also increase your risk of colon cancer, as well as other serious health issues.
Because fiber helps to move stool through your digestive tract and colon, it actually helps to prevent colon cancer as it keeps your colon clean and healthy. Other health benefits of fiber include reducing the incidence of heart disease, lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose levels and inflammation, and even weight loss. Fiber can help with weight loss because it creates a fullness within your intestines that helps you to eat less.
There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Soluble fiber dissolves with water and creates a gel-like substance that helps to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.” Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, “absorbs water which adds bulk to your digestive tract and helps to move things through quickly.”
Examples of soluble fiber include oats, oat bran, peas, rice bran, legumes/beans, apples, and citrus fruits. Examples of insoluble fiber include whole wheat flour, wheat bran, rye, cabbage, carrots, brussel sprouts and nuts.
What would a daily diet of 30 to 35 grams of fiber look like?
Breakfast: Three-quarters of a cup of bran flakes (5g of fiber)
Mid-morning snack: One cup of raspberries (8g of fiber)
Lunch or Dinner: One cup of lentils, split peas or black beans (15-16g of fiber); one cup of broccoli contains 5g of fiber
You do not need to eliminate other foods in order to have a fiber-rich diet, just learn how to incorporate fiber-rich food into your daily life! It is really that simple. When you think of all the health benefits, plus the added bonus that you may lose weight, why wouldn’t you incorporate these foods into your diet?