Diets containing adequate fiber intake have been shown to have multiple health benefits. Studies have shown that high fiber diets can decrease the risk of chronic diseases including some cancers, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. Other benefits of dietary fiber include improved digestive health and weight management. Recommendations for the amount of fiber to consume per day differ based on age and sex. The Academy of nutrition and dietetics recommends 25g of fiber/day for women and 38g of fiber/day for men aged 19-50. After age 50 it is recommended that women decrease their intake to 21g/day and men to 30g/day.
Fiber is classified as soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water forming a gel like material, and insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and adds bulk to stool. Both of these fibers have unique benefits, which is why it is important to include both in our diets. Soluble fiber has been shown to aid in lowering blood cholesterol and improving blood glucose levels.
Insoluble fiber is important for regularity, and can be used to aid with constipation. Foods containing soluble fiber include fruits, oats, barley, peas and beans, and foods containing insoluble fiber include fruits and vegetables, wheat, bran, and other grains.
There are many easy ways to add fiber to your diet and it can easily be added at every meal.
Whole Grains: Choose whole grain breads, pastas and brown rice in place of refined white varieties. Try whole grain crackers with hummus as an afternoon snack and look for whole grains as the first ingredient when buying cereal. When buying whole grain products, always read the nutrition facts label and look for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving.
Oats: Start your day by warming up with a bowl of oatmeal. Oats can also be used to bake muffins and cookies or as a substitute for breadcrumbs in your favorite recipes.
Fruits and Vegetables: Color your plate at most meals and snacks with fruits and/or vegetables with their skins. Most of the fiber is found in the skin so it is important to leave the skin on. Did you know that 1 cup of raspberries and 1 cup of blackberries both contain 8 g of fiber? Try adding raspberries and blackberries to your morning plain Greek yogurt or to two slices of whole grain bread with peanut butter for a fiber filled peanut butter and “jelly” makeover.
Beans and legumes: Beans are versatile and can be used in many ways. Add beans to your diet by including them as your protein in salads and soups. Beans also make great dips including white bean dip and hummus. Have you ever thought to try roasting chickpeas in the oven for a delicious crunchy snack?
Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds are fiber packed and make an easy on the go snack. Combine the nuts and seeds of your choice with dried fruits for a fiber filled snack. Nuts and seeds are also great to sprinkle onto salads, oatmeal, and yogurt for a fiber boost.
When transitioning to a high fiber diet is important to start out slowly to avoid abdominal bloating or gas. It is also important to increase your water intake as you increase your fiber intake to aid in the digestion of fiber.
Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and owner of the private practice LNZnutrition LLC. She provides nutrition counseling and education to clients of all ages with many nutrition needs. Linzy enjoys sharing her love and nutrition expertise with others through counseling, her LNZnutrition blog and social media pages, including Facebook and Instagram.
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