We have all heard fiber is good for us, but what actually is fiber, what foods is it in, and why is it good for us?
Fiber is a carbohydrate that the body cannot fully digest and is found in plant-based foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, etc.
Fiber has numerous health benefits, including improved digestion, blood-sugar balance, increased satiety, and more!
There are two different types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both types of fiber possess their unique characteristics and therefore play different roles in the body.
As soluble fiber digests, it dissolves in water and other body fluids, forming a gel-like substance (Have you ever noticed when chia seeds expand in water or chia seed pudding – it’s the same thing!). As a result, soluble fiber slows down digestion and nutrient absorption in the stomach and small intestine. This decreased digestion time helps balance our blood sugar levels and keeps us fuller for longer.
In contrast, insoluble fiber cannot be digested by bacteria and does not dissolve in fluids. Rather, as insoluble fiber moves through the GI tract, it absorbs liquids and sticks to byproducts of digestion to form stool. This results in softer, easier to pass stool.
Foods high in soluble fiber:
- Cruciferous Veggies: Brussels, broccoli
- Root Veggies: carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes
- Beans, lentils, legumes
- Fruits: apples, pears, figs, berries
- Nuts and Seeds: Flaxseeds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds
- Psyllium Husk
Foods high in insoluble fiber:
- Fruit: Avocado, Berries, kiwi, mango, apple
- Green beans
- Beans, lentils, legumes
- Wheat bran or oat bran
- Dark Leafy greens: spinach, kale, arugula
- Complex Carbs: Brown rice, potatoes, quinoa, turnips, carrots
- Cruciferous Veggies: cauliflower, Brussels sprouts
- Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, sesame seeds, chia seeds
As you read through the above, you may have noticed that many of these foods contain both types of fiber, and this is not a bad thing – it helps keep a good ratio of both!
Women should try to eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day, while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams a day. Most Americans only get about 15g per day
5 TIPS TO INCREASE FIBER INTAKE
- Incorporate at least one fruit or veggie with every meal (make sure to eat them with the skin!)
- Increase fiber slowly! Start by adding in one more serving of fruits/veggies (or about 5g) for a few days, then see how you feel and increase it!
- Utilize seeds like chia and flax seeds that can easily be added into smoothies, sprinkled on top of salads, and incorporated into snacks (chia seed pudding, flackers, etc.) that will quickly boost fiber intake
- Make a soup with tons of veggies, beans/legumes, and whole grain of choice for an easy and delicious way to increase fiber (don’t forget that often cooked veggies are easier to digest)!
- Do not forget to hydrate! Seriously, if you are not upping your water intake while increasing fiber, this will back you up!
Fiber is your friend! Soluble fiber increases satiety, stabilizes blood sugar, feeds the gut microbiome, and more, while insoluble fiber helps move food waste through the GI tract promoting regularity and aiding in detoxification.So be sure to eat your fiber!