The American Heart Association Eating Plan suggests eating a variety of food fiber sources. Total dietary fiber intake should be 25 to 30 grams a day from food, not supplements. Currently, dietary fiber intake among adults in the United States average about 15 grams a day. That's about half the recommended amount.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Though most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber cannot be broken down into sugar molecules, instead it passes through the body undigested. Fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check. Fiber appears to reduce the risk of developing various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease, and constipation. Despite these benefits, research is mixed or inconclusive at this time, if fiber has any effect on colon cancer risk.
Dietary fiber is material from plant cells that cannot be broken down by enzymes in the human digestive tract. There are two important types of fiber: water-soluble and water insoluble. Each has different properties and characteristics.
Soluble- Water-soluble fibers absorb water during digestion. They increase stool bulk and may decrease blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber can be found in fruits (such as apples, oranges and grapefruit), vegetables, legumes (such as dry beans, lentils and peas), barley, oats and oat bran.
Insoluble- Water-insoluble fibers remain unchanged during digestion. They promote normal movement of intestinal contents. Insoluble fiber can be found in fruits with edible peel or seeds, vegetables, whole grain products (such as whole-wheat bread, pasta and crackers), bulgur wheat, stone ground corn meal, cereals, bran, rolled oats, buckwheat and brown rice.
So how can I increase my fiber intake?
Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juices.
Replace white rice, bread, and pasta with brown rice and whole grain products.
For breakfast, choose cereals that have a whole grain as their first ingredient.
Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips, crackers, or chocolate bars.
Substitute meat with beans or legumes two to three times per week (chili and soup yum!)
While all fruits have some fiber, there are some that are higher than others.
Here are a few that have 3 to 4 grams of fiber: Apple, Orange, Tangerine, Pear, 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup strawberries. Raspberries are high in fiber, as one cup has 8 grams.
Here are some vegetable choices that have 3 to 4 grams of fiber: 1/2 cup peas, 1/2 cup cauliflower, 1 cup carrots, 1 medium sweet potato, 1/2 cup squash.
Fiber and constipation
Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States, and consumption of fiber seems to relieve and prevent constipation.
The fiber in wheat bran and oat bran is considered more effective than fiber from fruits and vegetables. Experts recommend increasing fiber intake gradually rather than suddenly, and because fiber absorbs water, beverage intake should be increased as fiber intake increases.
A large-scale 2016 study (27) led by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health showed that higher fiber intake reduces breast cancer risk, suggesting that fiber intake during adolescence and early adulthood may be particularly important.
Women who eat more high-fiber foods during adolescence and young adulthood, including vegetables and fruit, may have significantly lower breast cancer risk than those who eat less dietary fiber when young.
Fiber isn't out there just to keep you regular, there are so many benefits to eating the rough stuff! By adding a little more fiber to your diet, you can reduce the risk of developing various conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease, and constipation. Eat your fruits and veggies, get rid of those white potatoes and substitute whole wheat/grain, and you will automatically be on the path for success. Though remember, moderation is key!
Tesa is new to blogging, but hopes to make a big impact with her vast knowledge of athletics and experience. Tesa recently earned her bachelor's degree at the Pennsylvania State University. While majoring in Athletic Training and minoring in psychology, she worked with various division one collegiate sports teams. Tesa is continuing her education by pursuing her Master's of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in sports pedagogy at The Louisiana State University. Tesa is a board certified Athletic Trainer and a Performance Enhancement Specialist. Outside of the training room, Tesa enjoys going on runs and working out for leisure.
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