The Health Benefits of Fiber
The Health Benefits of Fiber
10 High fiber foods that are easy to add to your diet:
- Pear (1 medium = 5.1g)
- Raspberries (½ cup = 4g)
- Avocado (½ avocado = 5g)
- Potato, with skin (1 medium = 4.4g)
- Lentils (½ cup = 7.8g)
- Black beans (½ cup = 7.5g)
- Quinoa (½ cup = 5g)
- Whole wheat pasta (½ cup = 3.2g)
- Chia seeds (1Tbsp = 5g)
- Almonds (1oz = 2.7g)
I’ve always considered myself a healthy eater, include a variety of foods in my diet. Recently, when I would review the daily recommended amount of fiber with patients, I started to wonder how much fiber I am getting in? I turned to a handy electronic food tracker, MyFitnessPal, on my phone and started recording all my food for about a week. To my surprise, I was getting what the average American gets in each day, 12-15 grams of fiber. The recommended daily intake is 25-30 grams per day, so I was missing the mark by 10-15 grams! From there, I made a conscious effort to start including more fiber and am now consistently getting 25-30 grams in daily, sometimes exceeding that number.
So, what’s the big deal with fiber? There are numerous reasons to include it in your diet, but I’ll start with four big ones.
- FIBER HELPS WITH BOTH CONSTIPATION AND DIARRHEA. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber becomes “sticky” when it gets wet. Oats, which are rich in soluble fiber, are a great example of this. Insoluble fiber does not absorb much water, so it doesn’t change when liquid is added to it. Celery would be a good example of this. For both diarrhea and constipation, you want to get more soluble fiber, such as oats, bran, and barley. For constipation only, you can add in some insoluble fiber as well—fruits and vegetables are good sources. Many people find that simply taking a daily fiber supplement, which is made up mostly of soluble fiber, will lessen both diarrhea and constipation.
- FIBER IS IMPORTANT FOR COLON CANCER PREVENTION. Dietary fiber has been associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. This protective effect may be due to fiber’s ability to add bulk in the digestive system, which shortens the time that waste is in the colon. When bacteria in the lower intestine break down fiber, a short chain fatty acid called butyrate is produced. This enhances the healthy composition of the gut microbiota and inhibits the growth of tumors in the colon.
- FIBER SUPPORTS WEIGHT REDUCTION. Soluble fiber helps reduce appetite. Given its natural appetite suppression, adding it can be a simple way to reduce weight. Research doesn’t clearly support an ideal amount or type of fiber to manage weight or enhance satiety. However, given that the recommended amount of 25-30 grams daily has other health benefits working toward that goal would support weight reduction and have other beneficial health effects.
- FIBER LOWERS CHOLESTEROL. Eating soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol into your bloodstream and therefore decrease your risk for heart disease. Soluble fiber helps lower LDL by stopping cholesterol from being absorbed through the intestines and into the bloodstream. Research showing that people who increased their soluble fiber intake by 5 to 10 grams a day had about a 5 percent drop in their LDL cholesterol levels, taking in more than 10 grams daily may lower levels even more.
Take the opportunity to track for a few days and see how much fiber you get in, you might be surprised. Are you an “average American” or do you reach recommended goals? If you find it challenging to increase your fiber or would like more information about any of the health conditions listed above, please contact our team at Comprehensive Gastrointestinal Health by calling 224.407.4400 or visit compgihealth.com. We are here to support your wellness goals!