Fiber may just be one of the most overlooked items on the nutrition label, but may just be one of the most important items you should check. Fiber (or dietary fiber) is usually listed on the nutritional label as soluble fiber or insoluble fiber.
There are many health benefits to fiber. Fiber has been associated with helping to lower the LDL or bad cholesterol, promoting better health, linked to preventing breast and colon cancer, and can help lower blood sugar. A diet rich in fiber can also help us lose weight!
The Center for Disease Control recommends that you get 14 grams of dietary fiber for every 1,000 calories that you consume each day. If you need 2,000 calories each day, you should try to include 28 grams of dietary fiber.
You may find it challenging to eat all of your daily fiber grams. Just take it slowly and try to choose high-fiber foods more often. Over time, you'll gradually be eating more fiber!
Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber
There are two types of fiber, each providing an important dietary function. Both soluble and insoluble fiber are not digested by the body. Soluble fiber binds with fatty acids and also has an effect on stomach functions by causing sugar to be absorbed more slowly. Insoluble fiber helps in overall digestion by moving what you eat through the intestines, promotes better bowel movements, and controls acidity in the intestines. Fiber helps us feel "full" as well, which discourages the consumption of more food and calories.
The following are foods which contain soluble fiber:
- Oat bran
- Nuts and seeds
- Most fruits (e.g., strawberries, blueberries, pears, and apples)
- Dry beans and peas
Insoluble fiber is found in the following:
- Whole wheat bread
- Brown rice
- Bulgur or whole grain cereals
- Wheat bran
- Most vegetables
When you eat the above food, you will also get other vitamins and nutrients (besides fiber) that you may miss in your normal diet.
Try these tips to jumpstart your intake of dietary fiber:
- Choose whole fruits more often than fruit juice.
- Try to eat two vegetables with your evening meal.
- Keep a bowl of pre-washed and prepared veggies in your refrigerator – try carrots, cucumbers or celery for a quick snack.
- Make a meal around dried beans or peas (also called legumes) instead of meat.
- Choose foods made with "whole grains." A good guide is to make at least half of your grain choices be from whole grains.
- Start your day with a whole grain breakfast cereal low in added sugar. Top your cereal with fruit for even more fiber.
Information on this page has been in part provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our local community resources. Before starting any physical activity program or dietary change please consult your health care professional or physician.