Ok, I know what you're thinking... "She’s talking about fiber.....again?!!"
Yes, I am, but only because it’s so important to your health!
If you’ve been following me for a little while, a lot of the this first information is review, but keep reading because I’m going to give you some great suggestions for adding more fiber to your diet toward the end.
What is it?
Fiber is the indigestible component of food derived from plants. It remains more or less the same from one end to the other if you know what I mean. There are two varieties, soluble and insoluble.
What does it do?
Soluble fiber forms a gel like consistency in the stomach and slows digestion. This helps lower cholesterol and blood glucose and help you feel fuller longer. Peas, beans, oats, and fruits are sources of soluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber aids in moving your digested food through your intestines more easily. It keeps things moving, if you will. Whole grains and vegetables provide the majority of insoluble fiber.
Make sure you are getting a good balance of both! Together fiber helps control blood sugar and appetite and aids in digestion. In addition, managing fiber can improve cholesterol levels and help achieve a healthy weight.
How much should you eat?
The Institute of Medicine recommends women consume 25 grams of fiber a day. Recent studies showed that increasing your daily fiber intake by 5g (to 30 for women) can result in the same amount of weight loss as a very specific diet plan prescribed by the American Heart Association.
Ok, that’s all well in good (and, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’re like “we know, we know”), but how do I make sure I get that much fiber in my diet. First, I found this great resource that shows some foods rich in fiber. This a is a good start to figure out how much fiber you are consuming in a day. Apps like MyFitnessPal are great for tracking as well.
If you are falling short of your goal, here are a few ways to increase the fiber content in your diet.
Pick whole grain foods over refined carbohydrates.
Whole grain foods are a natural source of dietary fiber. Unlike refined carbohydrates (like white bread), whole grains retain the kernel's fiber-rich outer shell (the bran). To identify whole grains, look for these ingredients on labels: whole wheat, barley, triticale, oats, rye, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, and bulgur.
Start your day with a fiber rich meal.
Oatmeal with bran flakes and cereal are great options. Just pay attention to the serving size and sugar content. Toss in a few blueberries for a little bit more fiber. Make sure to add a protein to your breakfast as well to make it a balance meal!
Add fruits or veggies to EVERY meal and snack!
The fruits highest in fiber include apples, berries, prunes, pears and oranges.
High fiber veggies are peas, artichokes, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.
Load up on beans
Beans are the best source of fiber (hence that song… you know). You can add them to salads, soups, and casseroles, or puree them to make a dip.
Add Flaxseed and Chia Seeds to your diet.
Add flaxseed meal to oats, smoothies, yogurt, and baked goods—you can even try breading chicken or fish with it. A two-tablespoon serving contains 3.8 grams of fiber and a dose of omega-3 fatty acids to boot.
Chia seeds have a whopping 5.5 grams of fiber per tablespoon. When they meet with water, they form a goopy gel that is great for thickening smoothies, making healthy puddings, or replacing eggs in cakes and cookies.
Should you supplement?
I do! Try as I might, life gets busy. I'm constantly on the go and travel a lot (and I don't like beans). Many days I’m under my fiber goal using just my diet so I regularly supplement just in case. If you are in the same boat, look for a supplement with natural ingredients like psyllium seed, oat bran, rice bran, and inulin. Bonus if the supplement includes other ingredients to aid and sooth digestion like probiotics, ginger root and licorice root. What to know my favorite brand? All you have to do is ask!
Making rapid changes to your fiber intake is not recommend! If you are well below SLOWLY increase your fiber content each day. Otherwise you might have some uncomfortable bloating. If you do, DON’T STOP! Your body will get used to it. Just make sure you are drinking plenty of water too!