Dietary fiber is not exciting, but it is important. Research shows adequate fiber intake is an essential part of health for more reasons than ever. The average American diet includes 10- 14 gm of fiber from food, but recommended amounts are double that: 25 to 38 grams daily.
There are two types of fiber; soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is found in greater amounts in oats, dried cooked beans and peas, fruit and psyllium husk (the fiber used in Metamucil® products). Insoluble fiber is found in greater amounts in whole grains and vegetables.
Increasing fiber helps ease constipation, because of its primary effect of increasing stool size and weight. But do you know other ways fiber affects your health?
Two recent studies show that increasing fiber is a simple method to help encourage weight loss.
Lower Cholesterol and Inflammation Levels
Soluble fiber has been shown to help the body lower the “bad” cholesterol level, and reduce the risk of heart disease development. Insoluble fiber intake is also linked to lower levels of heart disease. Both types lower inflammation levels in the body, which may help other chronic diseases as well, such as arthritis.
Protection Against Diabetes, Stroke and Cancer
The DASH diet- which is proven to lower blood pressure & so reduce stroke risk, is a high fiber diet. The Ornish Diet, which has been proven to actually reverse heart disease and type 2 diabetes, is a high fiber diet. Research published in January 2016 links higher fiber intake as a teen to a lower risk of breast cancer later in life.
How to Increase Fiber
- Gradually. Add one high fiber food every few days, as the body needs to get used to the increased intake slowly.
- Drink extra water when you add fiber, as the fiber needs to absorb fluid to do its work.
- Compare labels. Buy higher fiber breads and cereals and look for whole grain as the first ingredient.
- Eat whole fruits rather than juice or canned fruit.
- Eat a large serving (1 to 2 cups) of vegetables every supper meal.
- Add dried cooked beans to your meals. Beans contribute 7-9 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup. Eating a small amount of beans regularly will help the body adjust and decrease any gassy side effects.
Call Topeka Pharmacy if you would like a table of the fiber in foods or for high-fiber recipes. We are here to help!