Dietary Fiber = Indigestible parts of plant-based foods.
Dietary fiber is vital for healthy digestion. It's a type of carbohydrate that is undigestible meaning it cannot be broken down into sugars (glucose) to provide energy for the body. Instead, it passes through the digestive system relatively intact, facilitating regular bowel movements and a healthy gut.
Benefits of a high fiber diet:
Regular bowel movements
Lower risk of constipation
Associated with lower LDL cholesterol levels
Aids in regulation of body's use of sugars (slows the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream)
Can help with controlling hunger and lead to maintaining a healthy weight (high-fiber foods tend to be satiating)
Associated with lower risk of heart disease and diabetes
Beneficial to the gut microbiome
So where can we get fiber? Dietary fibers exist naturally in whole plants. They can also be extracted from plants or synthetically made and included infood products. Either way, consuming dietary fiber can benefit our health.
Dietary Fiber is found in plant foods. you will not find fiber in animal products.
WHOLE GRAINS: quinoa, oatmeal, bran
FRUIT: apples/pears with skin, berries, bananas, prunes, avocados
VEGETABLES: leafy greens like collard greens and kale, beets, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, peas, brussels sprouts
BEANS/LEGUMES: pinto beans, edamame, lentils, black beans, chickpeas
NUTS/SEEDS: chia seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, flax seed
There are two types of fiber:
Soluble Fiber: dissolves in water creating a "gel-like" substance. It helps slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream (lowering blood sugar spikes after eating) and lowers blood cholesterol levels. Some good sources include oatmeal, chia seeds, nuts, beans, lentils, apples, blueberries, and citrus fruits.
Insoluble Fiber: adds bulk to the stool and helps materials move through the digestive system in a timely fashion, promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. Some good sources include whole wheat products, quinoa, brown rice, legumes, leafy greens, and cauliflower.
*Most plant foods have both types of fiber. One should eat a wide variety of plant foods to ensure adequate consumption of both soluble and insoluble fibers.
How much fiber do we need? The recommendation for most adults and children is 25-35g of fiber each day. The large majority of Americans do not consume enough fiber. However, excessive fiber intake can cause GI distress (abdominal bloating/excess gas).
Depending on your diet, you could be at risk of consuming too much fiber, especially if (1) you're vegan/vegetarian, (2) you eat a lot of low-calorie, high-volume foods which tend to be plants, (3) eat mostly whole foods.
Symptoms of too much fiber:
Irregular bowel movements (diarrhea/constipation)
Feeling too full
General Rules of Thumb + Tips To Increase Fiber Intake:
By choosing whole foods over processed foods, you will increase your fiber intake
The more processed something is, the less fiber it typically has
Drink plenty of water
Eat whole fruits - skins and all
Choose whole grain options
Check nutrition labels
Add fiber slowly over days/weeks. Too drastic of a change in fiber intake could result in discomfort
DISCLAIMER: there are medical situations that could require people to adopt a low-fiber diet. You should always consult with a health professional before making drastic changes to your diet.