Fiber: Part I

Weather you’re looking to lose weight, lower your cholesterol or just get your digestive tract more “regular”, you may want to take a look at amount of fiber you get in your diet.  Most Americans consume an average of about 11-14 grams of fiber per day, which is only about half of what is recommended.  Increasing the amount of fiber you get in your diet may help with the following:

  • Weight Loss: Fiber tends to be very filling and keeps people satisfied after a meal, and thus tends to decrease total calorie consumption throughout the day.
  • Better Blood Sugar Control:  Increasing fiber intakes can help to lower insulin levels.
  • Helps with Bowel “Regularity”: Fiber helps to prevent constipation by adding bulk to the stool which makes it easier to pass.  If you have trouble with diarrhea, fiber can also help to bind things up to keep you more regular. 
  • Helps Prevent Several Digestive Problems: It can help to prevent diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, and possibly certain types of cancer.
  • Lowers Blood Cholesterol Levels:  Soluble fiber can help to lower LDL (often referred to as “bad”) cholesterol levels.

The recommendation for fiber is to eat between 20-35 grams per day.  However, it is important to increase the amount of fiber you eat gradually.  If intakes are increased too quickly, people often experience bloating, gas or constipation.  As you increase your intakes, you will also want to increase the amount of water you are drinking.  (This helps to keep things moving along.) 

There are two types of fiber in the diet, soluble and insoluble.  Soluble fiber is the one that helps to improve cholesterol levels and reduces your risk of heart disease.  Insoluble fiber affects the speed at which your body processes waste and helps to keep things moving along.  This is the type of fiber that helps prevent constipation, diverticulosis and hemorrhoids.  Good sources of each type of fiber are as follows:

  • Soluble Fiber: Oats, legumes, fruits, vegetables and psyllim (a grain found in some cereals).
  • Insoluble Fiber: Whole Wheat Products and Bran Cereals.

How much fiber is in some of the foods you eat?  Click the following link for a list of the fiber content of some high fiber foods:

Check back this week for some tips to help increase fiber in your diet.