Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. While most carbohydrates can be converted into the sugar molecules known as glucose, fiber cannot and instead passes through the body undigested. Fiber controls how the body uses sugars, which helps to control hunger and blood sugar levels.
For optimal health, children and adults need at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily, but the majority of Americans only consume about 15 grams. Whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts are excellent sources.
Types of Fiber
Fiber comes in two varieties, both beneficial to health:
- Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Oatmeal, chia seeds, nuts, beans, lentils, apples, and blueberries are examples of foods that contain soluble fiber.
- Insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, can assist the passage of food through the digestive system, encouraging regularity and assisting in the prevention of constipation. Whole wheat products (especially wheat bran), quinoa, brown rice, legumes, leafy greens like kale, almonds, walnuts, seeds, and fruits with edible skins like pears and apples are examples of foods high in insoluble fiber.
The risk of developing a number of illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease, and constipation, appears to be reduced by fiber. In the gut microbiome, fiber plays a beneficial role that may have anti-inflammatory effects that reduce the chronic inflammation linked to these conditions.
Dietary fibers come in a variety of forms and are found in a wide variety of plant foods. Due to the fact that each type of fiber has some degree of health benefit, it's crucial to avoid focusing excessively on a single type due to its particular proposed action. Therefore, the best way to ensure that you get the recommended 25 - 35 grams of fiber daily is to eat a wide variety of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Some tips for increasing fiber intake:
- Consume whole fruits as opposed to fruit juice.
- Replace white rice, bread, and pasta with minimally processed brown rice and other whole grains like barley, millet, amaranth, farro, and
- Include high-fiber foods in your regular diet: To cereals, add 1-2 tablespoons of almonds, ground flaxseeds, or chia seeds; to casseroles, stir-fries, and soups, add diced vegetables.
- Pick cereals with a whole grain as the first ingredient for breakfast. An additional piece of advice is to check the Nutrition Facts label and select cereals that contain 20% or more of the Daily Value (DV) for fiber.
- Instead of chips and crackers, munch on some crunchy raw vegetables or a handful of almonds.
- Two to three times per week, replace the meat in soups and chili with beans or other legumes.
- When eating enough fiber naturally through food is challenging, a fiber supplement like psyllium or methylcellulose powders or wafers can be used. They can help bulk and soften stool so it is easier to pass. But fiber supplements are not meant to fully take the place of high-fiber foods.