Importance of Fiber
When it comes to eating healthy, many of us focus on counting calories, avoiding fats and sugars, and avoiding more processed foods. We often take the approach of cutting things out and don’t place a large emphasis on what we bring in to replace those foods. A common overlooked area is fiber intake. According to the USDA, the typical male under age 50 should eat 38 grams of fiber a day and the typical female under 50 should take in 25 grams of fiber. 67% of people believe they are consuming enough fiber, however, a study in 2016 shows that only 5% of the American public actually meets the recommended fiber intake, with most people consuming 10-15 grams a day. Diets low in carbohydrates such as Keto or Atkins have indirectly caused a greater lack of fiber as well.
Generally speaking, fiber is a carbohydrate that the body cannot break down into its individual sugar molecules and will pass through the body without being digested. Fiber can be found in a wide variety of foods and is not simply found in grains. There are two main categories of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water which helps to slow digestion and allow more
time for your body to break down and absorb nutrients from your food.
This is the fiber that helps prevent spikes in blood sugar and is why eating an apple is generally a better choice than drinking apple juice. Soluble fiber can be partially fermented by
microbes in your gut that then helps feed bacteria that decreases fat storage, improves insulin sensitivity, and decreases inflammation. Foods high in soluble fiber include beans, avocados, apples, carrots, oats and seeds.
Insoluble fiber is not dissolved in water and is used to help push through food in your digestive system to promote regular bowel movements.
This fiber can help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and constipation. Common sources of insoluble fiber include whole wheat breads, rice, and vegetables such as carrots or potatoes.
Fiber has been shown to make an impact on many aspects of our health with a wide range of benefits that we are only now truly starting to understand and appreciate.
Fiber is generally a filling food that helps prevent over eating and keeps you satisfied between meals which can help with weight regulation. Additionally, as stated above, fiber can help feed certain bacteria in your gut that help promote weight loss, insulin sensitivity, and decrease inflammation. It has additionally been shown to lower cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. One study even demonstrates that an increase in fiber leads to a reduction in incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke incidence and mortality, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. There are a large hosts of health benefits that go far beyond preventing constipation and general gut health. Adding in a regular source of fiber in your diet can help you lead a long and healthy life.
If you are trying to get more fiber in your diet, make sure you try eating more whole foods rather than supplementing it with pills or bars. Most supplements are processed and lack variety of fiber type, along with certain vitamins and minerals that can usually provide their own health benefits! Some easy ways to increase your fiber intake are:
Switch to eating more whole foods.
Eat more fruits and vegetables in place of your usual snacks.
Try eating some broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower with hummus.
Legumes such as beans, lentils, and chickpeas are tasty and can be eaten as a side dish or thrown into a salad along with some berries and nuts.
Skip fruit juices and eat the actual fruit.
Pick whole grain versus refined breads and pastas. (Popcorn is an easy and tasty way to eat more whole grains!)
Be sure to check nutritional labels for a look into how much fiber each serving has.
Keep in mind that increasing your fiber intake can result in some gassiness and bloating. This is perfectly normal and shouldn’t stop you from trying to make healthier choices. Ensuring that you’re drinking more water throughout the day will help reduce those side-effects as your body adjusts.
Remember to always include a wide variety of foods to ensure that you get a varied range of fiber and nutrients in your body. The goal is always to create healthy eating habits and not to solve problems by looking for a singular “superfood” or taking supplements to fill gaps.
Go to Health.gov for a list of fiber amounts in common foods.
Check out this Chilli Recipe that is packed with lots of fiber filled foods.
Author: Edgar Vargas, PT, DPT
Dr. Edgar Vargas, PT, DPT received his Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology with emphasis on Exercise Science from California State University, Long Beach graduating Cum Laude. He later received his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Chapman University. He has clinical experience in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings including orthopedic and neurologic. Through his treatments, Edgar aims to treat the patient as a whole by listening to and understanding the individual needs of the patient. He seeks to educate each patient so that they may become confident in managing their conditions.Outside of the clinic, he spends his time rock climbing, traveling, and relaxing with his family and friends.
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