Let’s talk about Fiber. Our doctors tell us we need more fiber, television ads for fiber supplements tout digestive health and regularity, but do we actually know what fiber is and why it is important? Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Though most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber cannot be broken down into sugar molecules, and instead it passes through the body undigested. Fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check.
Fiber comes in two varieties, both beneficial to health:
• Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can help lower glucose levels as well as help lower blood cholesterol. Foods with soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples and blueberries.
• Insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, can help food move through your digestive system, promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation. Foods with insoluble fibers include wheat, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes.
The best sources of fiber are whole grain foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
Without a diet high in fiber, the body will have blood sugar spikes and crashes, increasing the risk of obesity, inflammation, diabetes and digestive issues such as diverticulosis (a condition in which there are small pouches or pockets in the wall or lining of any portion of the digestive tract.)
Children and adults need at least 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day for good health, but most Americans get only about 15 grams a day. Why aren’t we getting enough fiber? Great sources of fiber are whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
The standard American diet consists of sugary processed foods, processed meats and foods that are typically void of a decent nutrient profile. The majority of processed food is stripped of its fiber and has high sugar content, leading to negative health consequences when consumed regularly.
When you are out and about or at home, make sure you take your health into consideration and make healthy food choices. Eat your recommended daily fiber intake to keep your body running smoothly. Eating a diet made up of whole foods in their natural state will help keep you lean and healthy for a long time to come.