Do I need more fiber in my diet?
by Brianna Santos, C.H.N.
Fiber is the part of plant foods that our bodies cannot break down during digestion. It plays a large part in bulking our stool and maintaining healthy bowel movements. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is dissolvable in water and contributes to slowing our digestion down. Insoluble fiber holds on to water, bulking up your stool.
Lowers cholesterol by binding to bile, which contains cholesterol, and removing it from the body.
Regulates constipation by pulling water into the colon, which contributes to regular and healthy bowel movements.
Regulates blood sugar by slowing down digestion.
Reducing risk of intestinal cancer by preventing build up in the colon and sluggish digestion.
Improves weight management by helping you feel full longer. Fiber-containing foods also have the benefit of being low calorie.
Reducing risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Studies show that high fiber intake is linked to a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of factors that increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. These contributing factors include high blood pressure, high insulin levels, excess weight, high triglycerides levels, and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
Currently, dietary guidelines in America recommend 38g for the average male and 25g for the average female. Please note that if you are not used to consuming a high amount of fiber, you should increase your intake gradually. Increasing your intake too quickly may cause constipation. It is also very important to stay hydrated! The recommended dose of water is 8 glasses per day.
All plant-based foods contain fiber. This includes nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Some of the highest fiber-containing foods are as follows:
The simplest way to put it is to eat more plant-based foods. By eating these foods at every meal, you are already increasing your fiber intake. If you need help with how to get creative and add them to snacks and meals, here are a few tips:
Blend your fruits and vegetables into smoothies instead of juicing. This is also a great way to sneak in extra fiber and healthy fats from nuts and seeds!
Top off some yogurt with fruit, nuts, and seeds.
Start your meal off with a salad.
Snack on some raw veggies with hummus or guacamole
Choose whole-grain over white/wheat options.
Keep the skin on fruits and vegetables when edible.
Chart of high-fiber foods. (2021, January 5). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948
McKeown NM, Meigs JB, Liu S, Wilson PW, Jacques PF. Whole-grain intake is favorably associated with metabolic risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in the Framingham Offspring Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002;76:390-8.