When your parents told you to eat your vegetables, and when Grandma said “Eat your beans and cornbread,” they knew what they were doing. These foods are excellent sources of fiber. While eating fiber may be great advice…it has the reputation of tasting like cardboard. This could not be further from the truth! Fiber can be a delicious addition to your diet.
Read on to learn all the benefits of developing a fiber fixation, along with easy, tasty ways to add it to your diet.
What is fiber? Fiber is found only in plant foods. It is found in dried beans and peas, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It is a type of carbohydrate that gives plants their structure. Fiber is not digested or absorbed into the body when eaten. It therefore contains no calories.
There are two types of fiber. Both are beneficial in different ways.
Soluble Fiber (such as pectin) mixes with water to form a gummy substance that coats the insides of the intestinal tract. There, soluble fiber binds to cholesterol and reduces its absorption. This helps to lower blood cholesterol levels. It also delays the absorption of glucose and helps with diabetes control. Sources: oats, seeds, beans, barley, peas, lentils, apples, citrus fruit, carrots, plums, and squash.
Insoluble Fiber absorbs water, making the stool larger, softer and easier to eliminate from the body. It keeps the digestive system running smoothly, reducing constipation, hemorrhoids, and other digestive problems. Since the stool is in the intestines for a shorter period of time, less cancer-causing agents deposit in the digestive tract, preventing certain types of cancer. Sources: bran, whole grain products, skins of fruits and vegetables, and leafy greens.
What can fiber do for you? There are many health benefits to bulking up on fiber:
Aids in Weight Loss - Fiber-rich foods may help your body stay trim. They take longer to chew, which may slow down your eating time so you eat less food. Fiber helps you feel full and slows the emptying of your stomach. In other words, fiber helps you to fill up before you reach the point of overeating. Fiber itself cannot be fattening because it isn’t digested and has ZERO calories!
Reduces Risk of Heart Disease - Studies have shown that people who consume a high fiber diet are less likely to develop heart disease. Certain types of fiber may help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff). Fiber also helps bile acids pass through as waste. Therefore the body absorbs less dietary cholesterol.
Lowers High Blood Pressure - Fiber-rich foods are also a good source of potassium and magnesium. These two minerals are needed to help regulate blood pressure.
Manages Diabetes - Water-soluble fiber also helps to regulate blood sugar by delaying the emptying time of the stomach. This slows the sugar absorption after meals and reduces the amount of insulin needed.
Prevents Cancer - Eating a high fiber diet throughout one’s life may help prevent certain cancers, such as colon and rectal cancers. Fiber absorbs excess bile acids that are associated with cancer. It also speeds up the time it takes for waste to pass through the digestive system, which decreases the amount of time that harmful substances remain in contact with the intestinal wall. Fiber also forms a bulkier stool, which helps to dilute the concentration of harmful substances.
Reduces Constipation, Hemorrhoids, and Diverticulosis - Fiber absorbs water, softening and bulking the stool. This helps it pass through the digestive system more quickly and easily. As a result, fiber prevents constipation. There is less straining with bowel movements so hemorrhoids are less likely to form. Fiber is also a standard therapy for the treatment of diverticular disease. This painful disease occurs when the tiny sacs in the intestinal wall become weak and infected. A high fiber diet helps to keep these sacs from becoming inflamed.
Check out these other important nutritional items as well.
How much do I need?
The recommended daily intake for total fiber is:
Adult males, under age 50
38 grams daily
Adult males, over age 50
30 grams daily
Adult females, under age 50
25 grams daily
Adult females, over age 50
21 grams daily
Adult pregnant females
25-35 grams daily
Where can i get more fiber?
Check out the chart below for the amount of fiber in some common foods.
Grams of Fiber
Grams of Fiber
Grains & Pasta
( 1 cup cooked )
Prunes, dried, 3
Whole Wheat Spaghetti
Apricots, dried, 1/4c
Fiber One, 1/2c
All Bran, 1/3c
Raisin Bran, 1c
Shredded Wheat, 1c
Apple Juice, 1c
Wheat Chex, 1c
Orange Juice, 1c
Bran Flakes, 3/4c
Grape Nuts, 1/2c
(1/2 cup cooked)
Potato with skin, 1
Corn Flakes, 1c
Special K, 1c
Rice Krispies, 1c
( 1 slice )
Carrot, 1 med
Whole wheat bread
Celery, 1 stalk
Green pepper, 1/2
Pinto beans, 1/2c
Lentil soup, 1c
Kidney beans, 1/2c
Ham / bean soup, 1c
Tasty ways to add fiber to your diet:
Try a high-fiber grain instead of rice. Bulgur, barley, and brown rice are great high-fiber substitutions.
Add beans to your favorite stir-fry, dips, quesadillas, burritos, and tacos.
Eat some type of fresh or dried fruit with every meal.
Start your meal with a large spinach salad, sprinkled with nuts, seeds or dried fruit.
Choose fruit instead of juice.
Make a pot of vegetable soup.
Add extra veggies and/or beans, peas, and lentils to soups, casseroles, and stews.
Try Middle Eastern cuisine, such as tabbouleh or falafel.
Keep nuts, trail mixes, and cereal mixes available for snacks.
Buy whole wheat pasta, breads, crackers, and cereals.
Top casseroles with wheat germ or bran.
Eat the skins of fruits and vegetables when possible.
Start your morning with a whole grain, high fiber cereal.
Ask for lunchtime sandwiches to be prepared with whole grain bread and topped with veggies.
Too much fiber too quickly may cause constipation or stomach discomfort. Increase fiber in your diet slowly, and boost your fluid consumption by drinking 8 glasses of water daily.
Use canned beans or dried beans that are thoroughly cooked; the undercooked starch in beans can cause gas. Discard the cooking water because it contains some indigestible sugars. If bothered by gas, try Beano, an over-the-counter product which contains an enzyme that digests bean sugars.
Laxatives…exit here: Do not take any laxatives for more than one week without checking with your physician. Do not take a laxative within two hours of other medications.
Bulk formers (Metamucil, Citrucel, Konsyl, Serutan). These products absorb water in the intestines and make the stool softer. They are similar to insoluble fiber. They are the safest laxatives.
Stool Softeners (Colace, Dialose, Surfak). These products keep the stool moist and prevent dehydration.
Saline Laxatives (Milk of Magnesia, Citrate of Magnesia, Haley’s M-O). These products act like a sponge to draw water into the colon for easier passage of the stool.
Lubricants (mineral oil). Lubricants grease the stool so it moves more easily in the intestines. They also can bind with fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K) and can cause a deficiency over time. In rare cases, pneumonia can occur with usage.
Stimulants (Correctol, Dulcolax, Purge, Feen-A-Mint, Senokot). These products cause the intestinal muscles to contract and move the stool through the intestines. They can lead to a dependency.
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