You likely have heard that you should be eating plenty of fiber-rich foods, but you may be wondering...
Why fiber is really important?
Am I getting enough?
What are some fiber-rich foods I can easily add to my meals?
Why fiber is important
Fiber is an undigestible carbohydrate that comes from plants. There are quite a few benefits to this. For starters, fiber acts as a broom that slowly goes through the intestines keeping things flowing at an adequate pace. Insoluble fiber helps keep the mucous in our intestines healthy and free of build up which in turn keep the organisms in our digestive tract happy and healthy.
Because fiber doesn't get broken down into sugar like other carbohydrates do, it keeps you feeling full for longer periods of time. Because its stays in the intestines longer, it can help stabilize blood glucose when eaten with other carbohydrate rich foods.
Non-soluble fiber will go on to be fermented and used to feed all the microscopic "bugs" in our digestive tract. The fermentation of these indigestible fibers causes the production of short chain fatty acids (SCFA) that can be used by the body as a nutrient source. SCFA's also play an important role in muscle function and possibly the prevention of chronic diseases, including certain cancers and bowel disorders.
Am I getting enough fiber?
Every persons' fiber requirements may differ. In general, incorporating 30-40g of fiber into your diet daily is adequate. If you aren't getting that amount, you have room to add more.
One of the easiest ways to tell if you aren't getting enough fiber is to pat attention to your bowel movements. Lack of fiber in the diet can slow things down and cause constipation. This isn't always the case as there can be many other contributing factors, but it is a very common indicator. If you are eating a diet very low in fiber and then go straight to eating 4-6 servings of fiber rich foods daily, you may experience upset stomach and bloating because your gastrointestinal tract is not used to the increase in fiber. So please, add fiber in slowly.
How to incorporate fiber rich foods to every meal
You can obtain fiber in your diet via soluble or insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is fermented as it moves through the digestive tract. When it dissolves in water it becomes gel- like. Think about chia seeds when placed in water, they are a great source of fiber. These fibers are sometimes called prebiotics because they feed our beneficial microbiota in our intestinal lining. Although there are supplements containing prebiotic fibers, there are many foods naturally containing prebiotics. The highest amounts are found in raw versions of the following:
- Jerusalem artichokes
- dandelion greens
Other sources of fiber are:
- sweet potato
- dried figs
- flax seed
- psyllium husk
- and much more!
In general, fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains like wheat, oats, and barley are all good sources of fibers. If you do not have food sensitivities, it is important to gradually implement a high-fiber diet because a low-fiber diet may not only reduce the amount of beneficial bugs, but increase the growth of harmful bacteria in our digestive tract. And lets not forget that it keeps on a regular toileting schedule
What to do now that you know how to incorporate fiber into your diet
Now that you know why fiber is important, the first step is to stock your kitchen with a few fiber-rich options so you can have them on hand for your meals. As you go to make each of your meals, be sure to check your plate to see what food items are great sources of fiber. If you’re missing fiber, refer back to the list to add some in. With practice, you’ll be easily able to recall which fiber-rich foods are easy to add to different types of meals!