The recommended daily intake for fiber is to get at least 25 grams for women and at least 38 grams for men. Unfortunately, most Americans are only getting about half the amount they need according to the American Heart Association. This spews a slew of questions: So what is Fiber? What does it do for your health? Why is it so important and such a hot topic in the health field? How do I increase my fiber consumption?
What is fiber?
Fiber is a complex carbohydrate sourced from plant foods that is neither digested or absorbed in the intestines, but has been recognized by various scientific bodies and governmental authorities for its physiological effects associated with improved health and decreased risk of chronic disease. There are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and both are present in all plant foods in various proportions and have major health benefits.
Soluble Fiber: This kind of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material that can help slow the absorption of blood sugars, increase feelings of satiety, and aid in weight loss. Examples of soluble fiber include oats, fruits, and vegetables.
Insoluble Fiber: This kind of fiber helps to promote the movement of materials through your digestive system and can benefit with those with constipation or irregular bowel movements. Whole-wheat flour, nuts, vegetables and legumes are good sources in insoluble fiber.
Benefits of a high-fiber diet
High Fiber has High rewards when it comes to your health:
- Normalizing bowel movements: dietary fiber helps to bulk up and soften your stool which makes it easier to pass and help with regularity in movements.
- Bowel Health maintenance: studies have found that a diet higher in fiber are being proven to help lower risks of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
- Controlling blood sugar levels: fiber helps to slow the absorption of sugar and improves blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
- Heart healthy: studies are also suggesting that diets higher in fiber help to reduce blood pressure and inflammation in the body.
- Achieving healthy weight: high-fiber foods are “nutrient-dense” meaning you’ll likely eat less, but feel satisfied longer. Using fiber is a great tool to help when trying to lose weight. Speak with a dietitian about creating a healthy weight loss plan to help you meet your goals.
Easy tips to increase your fiber intake
- Kick-start your morning: for breakfast, look for cereal that has 5 or more grams of fiber. Pair this with some fresh berries or nuts.
- Eat your Fruits and vegetables: try to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Not only are they rich in fiber, but they also have essential vitamins and minerals for your body!
- Switch to whole grains: make at least half of your grains, whole. Look for whole wheat, whole-grain, or wheat flour as the first ingredient on the label. You can also try switching to brown rice and whole wheat pasta.
- Beans, beans the magical fruit: beans are a great source of fiber and protein. Try adding beans, lentils, or chick peas to your soups or salads.
High fibers are good for your health, but increasing your fiber too quickly can cause discomfort such as abdominal bloating, cramping, and flatulence. Increase your fiber gradually over a few weeks to help your digestive system adjust to the change. Speak with a Registered Dietitian to learn more about incorporating fiber into your lifestyle.
High fiber recipe:
Peanut Butter Date Bites
Time: 10 mins
Serving: 2 balls
- 8 pitted Natural Delights Medjool dates, quartered
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1/3 cup coconut flour
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup natural peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- In a food processor, pulse oats, coconut flour, salt, and cinnamon until well-ground, resembling flour.
- Add dates, peanut butter, and chia seeds to food processor and pulse until mixture comes together - the mixture will start to pull away from the sides of the food processor.
- Place unsweetened shredded coconut onto a plate.
- Using your hands, roll energy bite mixture in small balls, approximately 1-inch in diameter. Roll balls in shredded coconut, pressing gently to stick. You may need to roll again, to reform into spherical shapes.
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Devin Brittain is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist in the state of Louisiana. Born and raised in California, Devin obtained her Bachelors of Science in Food and Nutritional Sciences with an emphasis in Dietetics and Food Administration from California State University, Fresno. She then moved to Louisiana and completed her Dietetic Internship at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Devin is currently the Outpatient Dietitian for the Cancer Center at West Jefferson Medical Center where she assists patients and teaches healthy cooking classes. She is serving on the board for the New Orleans Dietetic Association where she strongly advocates for the dietetic profession and the health of her community. In her free time, Devin enjoys attending festivals, reading, developing recipes, dancing, and cheering on the Saints! She is passionate about utilizing her food and nutrition knowledge to benefit others and believes in finding innovative ways to encourage a healthy lifestyle that works for each individual.