We all know that we need to get enough fiber, but what is it exactly, and what does that really mean?
Simply defined, fiber is the part of plant matter that cannot be completely broken down (digested) or absorbed by the body. It comes only from plant matter (fruits, vegetables, grains) not from any other kinds of foods.
There are two kinds of fiber:
This kind of fiber does not dissolve in water and moves quickly through the digestive system. It can prevent constipation, and also prevent infections of the gut and intestines. The best food sources of insoluble fiber are vegetables, fruit (with skin), nuts, whole-grain flour, bran, and legumes.
This kind of fiber does dissolve in water. It binds with cholesterol and removes it from the bloodstream, and it also helps to lower blood sugar by slowing the digestion of food. The best food sources for soluble fiber are oats, oat bran, beans, peas, barley, apples, citrus fruits, and carrots.
The American Dietetic Association recommends that we get at least 20 – 35 grams of fiber per day, but most of us are only getting about 15 grams each day. This means that many of us are missing out on the innumerable health benefits that fiber can give us.
Tips for getting more fiber in your diet:
Choose a high-fiber breakfast to start the day. There are a variety of breakfast cereals that are high in fiber, look for one that has at least 5 grams per serving.
Always choose whole grain options. Avoid white or bread, and be sure to choose one that is whole grain and has at least 2 grams of fiber per serving. There are more and more options that fall into this category, and some brands pack in even more fiber. Also explore the variety of delicious grains available: brown rice, quinoa, barley, bulgur, etc.
Get more fruits and veggies. Enjoy fruit as a snack, or with a meal. Bulk up the meals you love with extra vegetables. Add them to pasta sauce or soups. Try to always keep fresh produce on hand and enjoy.
Eat more beans. Legumes are a great source of fiber. Make black bean dip, or add canned beans to soup or salad. Have some hummus (made from garbanzo beans) with whole grain crackers as a high-fiber snack.
Make yourself some popcorn. Popcorn is extremely high in fiber. Keep it healthy by using an air popper and sprinkle on seasoning instead of dousing it in butter.