In honor of National Nutrition Month, our HealthPartners dieticians explain fiber.
What is fiber?
Fiber is the indigestible part of plants and has an important role ina colon-healthy diet, cholesterol and diabetes management, and weight loss. Fiber helps slow absorption of sugar into the blood stream, which prevents blood sugar spikes and extra snacking. Fiber also works to keep the intestines healthy while keeping them clean and moving along at the right pace.
How much fiber do I need?
It’s recommended that you get at least 25 grams of fiber per day in your diet.
How do I know if I’m not getting enough fiber?
Many people don’t get enough of the fiber they need. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes only about 14 grams of fiber per day. When you don’t get enough fiber you may experience constipation and/or hemorrhoids, higher cholesterol levels and even increased hunger after just eating.
Where can we find fiber?
If it’s a plant-based food, you are likely going to find fiber. Choosing whole fruits and vegetables (cooked or raw) is ideal; fruits and vegetables that pack a fiber punch include berries, winter squash, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and citrus fruit to name a few. Another fiber superstar are legumes: beans, lentils, split peas and even green peas. Per serving (1/2 cup), these foods provide at least 7 grams of fiber. Add legumes to salads, soups or pasta.
When selecting grains and starches choose 100% whole wheat or sprouted wheat breads, brown rice, barley, quinoa and buckwheat or whole wheat noodles. Choose grains that have been milled or processed the least. Reading food labels for grams of fiber can help you to select better choices; aim for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
Have fun trying to incorporate fiber into recipes, such as adding a little whole wheat flour instead of all purpose flour into a recipe, beans to a rice dish or additional vegetables to a pizza.
So, how do you know if you’re getting enough fiber? It’s one of the things your poop can tell you. If you’re going regularly, you’re probably getting enough.
One last tip to keep in mind: When you are trying to increase your fiber, do so over a period of time. This helps to alleviate gas, bloating and other uncomfortable side effects that can come from adding in fiber too quickly. Make sure to stay hydrated when increasing fiber as well, which can also reduce some discomfort and health issues if you don’t.
A HealthPartners registered dietitian nutritionist can work with you to help you make lifestyle changes improve your diet. Call 952-967-7616 to make an appointment. We recommend that you call your insurance company to be sure you are covered for these services before making your appointment.