Fiber helps our body function better in many ways by:
- helping food move through the intestine easier preventing constipation and reducing the risk of diverticulosis
- promoting weight loss by making us feel full
- feeding our beneficial (good) bacteria in our gut
- preventing blood sugar spikes by slowing the movement of glucose into the blood
- lowering cholesterol
Nutrition guidelines recommend:
- 25 grams (g) fiber daily for women below age 50 and 21 g over 50 yrs
- 38 grams (g) fiber daily for men below age 50 and 30 g over 50 yrs
Good sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables and whole grains. As you can see, fiber is found in plant foods. There are two types of fiber – insoluble and soluble – and we need both for good health.
- Insoluble fiber is the rough, stringy parts of plants that our body can’t breakdown. Examples are the skins of fruits and beans, the outer covering of grains (bran) and the tough, fibrous parts of vegetables such as celery, broccoli and spinach or kale.
- Soluble fiber turns into a gel-like substance in our body and is found in oats and the soft part of beans, fruits and vegetables.
It is important to note that there is very little fiber in processed foods. For example, eating an apple with the skin will provide you with 4.4 g fiber. Choosing applesauce instead will only give you 1.4 g in ½ cup. Juices without the pulp or skins have no fiber. So if your usual diet consists of processed food products, introduce fiber-rich foods slowly until your body adjusts to the new healthful way of eating.
It’s easier than you think to get the recommended amount of fiber each day. Here are some suggestions of meals and a snack that will provide at least 25-38g in one day.
Breakfast: 1 c cooked oatmeal + ½ chopped apple w/skin + 1/4c raisins = 8g OR
½ c All Bran cereal + 1 small banana = 13g
Snack: 1 oz (or 23) almonds (w/skins) = 4 g
Lunch: 2 pieces whole wheat bread (with any meat/fish) + 1 piece lettuce/1 slice
tomato + 1 pear = 12g
Dinner: 1 serving meat/fish/poultry + ½ c peas + ½ cup winter squash + 1 c broccoli
= 13g OR
Burrito w/ ½ c beans + ½ c chopped tomatoes + ½ c shredded lettuce +
1 flour tortilla and 1 c zucchini = 15g
New to fiber? Start by eating an apple a day, adding one more vegetable to a meal or choosing whole grain bread over white bread. Use the sources below to find out the fiber content in your favorite fruits and vegetables.
Sources and additional information:
- Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet
- Appendix 13: Food sources of dietary fiber. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-13/
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020
- The top fiber-rich foods list.