Why is it so important to get fiber in my diet?

Dietary fiber is such an important part of a well rounded and healthy diet. Fiber is the part of a plant that your body cannot break down or digest. It passes relatively intact through your body. There are two main categories of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber (oats, apples, citrus fruits, beans) can dissolve in water and turn into a gel like material. I recommend that people get more soluble fiber in their diet if they have been struggling with loose stools. Insoluble fiber (vegetables, whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts) can encourage movement of materials through your digestive system and provide “bulk” to the stool.

Fiber has been found to be beneficial for many reasons. It is widely known that insoluble fiber filled foods can help prevent and relieve constipation. I recommend that people increase their insoluble fiber intake when they have had trouble moving their bowels. Regular bowel movements are important to overall bowel health, as it lowers the risk of hemorrhoids or diverticular disease (small pouches in your colon). The fiber found in oats and beans can help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol, which may help reduce risk of heart disease. A diet high in soluble fiber may also be important if you have diabetes. Soluble fiber can help slow the absorption of sugar, allowing for better blood sugar control. Eating extra fiber can also assist one trying to lose weight. Foods filled with fiber tend to help keep you fuller longer, which can help keep you from overeating later in the day. Starting the day out with a high fiber breakfast like oatmeal, whole grain bread with peanut butter, or a veggie filled egg-white omelet can fill you up and assist you in making healthy food choices the rest of the afternoon.

The typical American needs anywhere from 21-38 grams of fiber. Females should aim for 21-25 grams per day while males should strive to consume 30-38 grams. I encourage people to slowly begin to increase their fiber intake, and not drastically add many fiber filled foods overnight. Make small changes in your grocery list. Choose whole wheat pasta over regular white pasta and add frozen beans, spinach, broccoli etc to your cart. Almonds can be purchased for a healthy high fiber snack and fresh or frozen fruit can make a nice dessert.

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