The Basics of a High Fiber Diet
It’s no secret that eating more fruits and vegetables is important in High Fiber Diet. But do you know why? One major reason is for the dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Experts recommend a high fiber diet for most Americans. For men under 50 years old, this means about 38 grams of daily fiber and for men over 50 years, 30 grams is the daily recommendation. Women under age 50 should eat 25 grams dietary fiber per day. Women under age 50 should eat 21 grams per day.
Why Is a High Fiber Diet Good for You?
— Bowel regularity: A high fiber diet keeps you regular and prevents constipation. It also makes stools softer and bulkier. This in turn decreases risk of developing hemorrhoids and diverticulosis.
— Improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels: Daily intake of certain types of dietary fiber will help lower cholesterol and triglycerides. Also, a high fiber diet may lower risk of coronary heart disease.
— Reduce risk of colon polyps and cancer: A high fiber diet may reduce your risk of developing colon cancer, although this is not yet proven.
— Strengthens the colon wall: Eating a high fiber diet promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon. It also decreases the presence of harmful bacteria. This strengthens the wall of the colon.
— Improve blood sugar levels: Fiber slows down the digestion and absorption of sugars. This means sugar enters the blood at a slower, more even rate. Therefore a high fiber diet can be beneficial for people with diabetes or at risk for developing diabetes.
— Promote weight loss: Daily intake of dietary fiber may cause weight loss a few different ways. Fiber is filling and makes you feel full long aster a meal. Therefore, you eat less. Also, high fiber diets promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut. These good bacteria turn off some hunger hormones and produce other hormones that cause feelings of fullness. High fiber diets may also decrease the growth of gut bacteria that absorb large amounts of calories.
Types of Dietary Fiber
There are 3 important types of dietary fiber: insoluble, soluble, and prebiotic soluble. All 3 play a role in our health and should be a part of a high fiber diet.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is not fermented by bacteria in the colon. Instead, it retains water and produces larger, bulkier, and more regular stools. This action reduces risk of diverticulosis and hemorrhoids. Good sources of insoluble fiber are:
- whole grains
- corn and popcorn
- nuts and seeds
- potato, apple, and pear skins
- green vegetables like green beans, zucchini and celery
Soluble fiber slows down digestion because it attracts water and then forms a gel-like substance. This type of fiber promotes weight loss. It is found in:
- legumes (peas and beans)
- oats, rye, and barley
- berries, plums, apples, bananas, and pears
- broccoli and carrots
- root vegetables
Prebiotic soluble fiber is a newly identified type of fiber. Also known as inulin
or fructan, these fibers are fermented by good bacteria in the colon. The
following foods are good sources of prebiotic soluble fiber:
- chicory, Jerusalem artichokes
How to Increase Dietary Fiber
While a high fiber diet is generally healthy for everyone, you should always discuss diet changes with your doctor. Once your doctor gives you the green light, try some of these suggestions:
— Choose a high fiber, whole grain cereal for breakfast. Add fruit such as
berries or bananas.
— Use whole grain bread for toast and sandwiches.
— Substitute beans for meat a couple times a week. Beans are a good source of protein and are also high in fiber. For instance, black bean burgers instead of hamburgers or bean burritos instead of beef burritos.
— Snack on fresh fruit, nuts, popcorn, or carrot sticks and hummus.
— Add extra vegetables and beans to soups and stews.
— Add fruit to salads such as mandarin oranges, sliced apples, sliced pears, or berries.
— Add a variety of vegetables to your salads such as tomatoes, onions, broccoli, and carrots.
— Have a smoothie for breakfast. Include several types of fresh fruits, chia seeds, flax seeds, spinach, or kale.
— Add nuts, seeds, and beans to your salads.
— Use whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta.
— Swap brown rice for white rice.
— Eat the skin when eating potatoes, apples, and pears.
— Choose cereals with at least 6 gm dietary fiber per serving.
— Choose breads that have at least 2 gm dietary fiber per slice.
— Switch to whole grain crackers, such as Triscuits.
— Experiment with new grains such as quinoa, amaranth, wheatberries, or bulgur.
Reading Nutrition Labels for Fiber
It is important to read nutrition labels to help you choose foods for your high fiber diet. But, nutrition labels can be tricky. Not everything listed as “wheat” or even “whole wheat” has a lot of fiber. Look at the ingredient list. The first word should be whole, as in whole wheat or whole grain. Also, look at the serving size and the grams of fiber. For instance, some brands of sliced bread will say they have more grams of fiber per serving. However, they list the serving size as 2 slices verses 1 slice.
Fiber and Gas
Some people are afraid to adopt a high fiber diet because they don’t want to have increased intestinal gas. However, intestinal gas is not a bad thing. Intestinal gas is produced when the good bacteria in your gut are thriving. Even so, dealing with excess intestinal gas can be unpleasant. To prevent this, you should gradually increase your intake of dietary fiber. Also, make sure you are eating prebiotic fiber. This type of fiber reduces the growth of bacteria that produce “smelly” gas.
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