When you think fiber you probably think of using it for a good bowel movement (great) — but there are also so many more benefits of fiber that aren’t discussed. And most of the time, I see the women I work with are severely low in their fiber intake.
What is Fiber?
Fiber is a type of carb that is found in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. The reason fiber is unique is that these carbs are not able to be broken down & digested by the body (aka the digestive enzymes in the GI tract). Because of this, it actually benefits you and your body better, and provides significant benefits.
Benefits of Fiber:
Regular Bowel Movements:
- Fiber reduces constipation and helps you to have at least 1-2 daily poops
- Fiber helps keep you full longer since it can’t be digested. This helps reduce the need to snack and blood sugar levels which can benefit weight management/loss.
Reduce Risk of Heart Disease:
- Studies have shown that consuming foods high in soluble fiber, such as oatmeal and apples, can help to lower cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
Blood Sugar (Glucose) Management:
- Soluble fiber can help to slow down the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream, which can help to improve blood sugar control. This helps those who have been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, and can help you avoid developing diabetes over time.
Supports Gut Health:
- A diet high in fiber can help to promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the GI tract.
Reduces the Risk of Cancer:
- Some studies have shown that increased fiber can help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
- Helps reduce inflammation within the bloodstream and body.
Types of Fiber:
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance, and this mechanism can help with things like lowering cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, so it “sweeps through” the GI tract promoting regular bowel movements and can prevent constipation. Both types of fiber are important for maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Foods High in Soluble Fiber:
- Oatmeal: a great source of soluble fiber, and it is also low in fat and cholesterol. Check out my Pumpkin Spice Protein Oat Ball Recipe
- Apples: high in both soluble and insoluble fiber and also contains antioxidants.
- Oranges: high in soluble fiber as well as Vitamin C
- Flaxseed: high in both soluble and insoluble fiber, and also contain omega-3 fatty acids
- Beans: such as black, kidney, lentils, and chickpeas… are high in soluble fiber and protein, making them a great addition to a healthy diet.
- Berries: such as raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries… are high in soluble fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins.
- Sweet Potatoes: high in soluble fiber, vitamin A, and potassium. Check out my favorite, chocolatey and healthy Sweet Potato Brownie Recipe
- Avocados: high in soluble fiber and healthy monounsaturated fats, which can help to improve heart health.
- Nuts and seeds: such as almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds
- Whole Grains: such as whole wheat products, brown or wild rice, quinoa, and corn… are high in soluble fiber and have other benefits like aiding in weight loss, reduce LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and maintain blood sugar levels.
Foods High in Insoluble Fiber:
- Cabbage: high in insoluble fiber and also provides a variety of other essential vitamins and minerals.
- Celery: high in insoluble fiber and also low in calories, making it a great snack option.
- Broccoli: high in insoluble fiber and also provides a variety of other essential vitamins and minerals.
- Dried fruits: such as apricots, prunes, and figs… are high in insoluble fiber and also provide a good source of natural sugar.
- Cauliflower: high in insoluble fiber and also provides a variety of other essential vitamins and minerals, it can also be used as a low-carb substitute for other high-carb foods (if you are needing to be low-carb)
- Nuts and seeds: such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts… are high in insoluble fiber.
- Popcorn: Popcorn is high in insoluble fiber and is a low-calorie snack option.
- Dark leafy greens: such as spinach, kale and collard greens… are high in insoluble fiber and also provide a variety of other essential vitamins and minerals.
- Root vegetables: such as carrots, beets and radishes… are high in insoluble fiber and also provide a variety of other essential vitamins and minerals.
How Much Fiber Do I Need?:
It is important to note that when increasing fiber intake, it should be done gradually over time and with adequate hydration to avoid discomfort. Additionally, people with certain medical conditions should consult with their healthcare provider before increasing their fiber intake.
The Recommended Daily Allowance is:
- Women: 21-25 grams
- Men: 30-38 grams