Nutrition Corner: Increasing Dietary Fiber
Did you know that increasing your dietary fiber has positive effects on the prevention of many health complications like high cholesterol, high blood sugars, colorectal cancers and poor digestive health? Additionally, a high-fiber diet is usually lower in calories and can increase feelings of fullness after meals, which can help promote a healthy weight.
Fiber is a type of indigestible carbohydrate found in plant foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and whole-grain products. Fiber helps to bind dietary cholesterol before absorption and excrete it from the body, assisting in lowering overall cholesterol levels in the body. Also, in the large intestine, some fiber is fermented and transformed into a short-chain fatty acid, which then communicates with the liver to halt further production of cholesterol internally. A double win for your cholesterol numbers! Lastly, fiber feeds your gut’s beneficial bacteria that facilitate with proper digestion and immunity, thus reducing your risk for colon cancer and diverticulitis.
The recommended amount of fiber is 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men (or for those over the age of 51, 21 and 30 grams per day, respectively). Unfortunately, most Americans are falling far short of the recommended amount. Therefore, here are some simple substitutions that can easily add more fiber into your diet:
- Have steel cut or rolled oats with nuts and berries for breakfast instead of cereal.
- For lunch, use whole-grain bread products and add veggies such as tomatoes, cucumber and spinach to sandwiches or wraps.
- Add more vegetables or beans to casseroles and stews.
- Snack on fruits and vegetables during the day.
- Add oat bran or flour to home-baked items such as cookies and muffins and to savory dishes like meatloaf.
When increasing your fiber intake, start slow and drink plenty of fluids, especially if taking any supplemental forms of fiber.
To know how many grams are in your food, look for Dietary Fiber content on the Nutrition Facts label. It’s listed under Total Carbohydrates. A great source of fiber provides typically 5 grams or more per serving, while a good source provides 2.5 to 4.9 grams per serving.