What is dietary fiber?
Dietary fiber is the bulk found in fruits, veggies, and whole grains that our bodies cannot absorb or digest. This is contrasted to the foods that our bodies do digest such as proteins, carbs, and fats. Fibers simply pass through our digestive system and out of our bodies.
There are two types of dietary fibers which include: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber is a form of fiber that dissolves in water forming a gel-like substance. This type is found in peas, beans, apples, carrots, citrus fruits, and oats and can help to lower glucose and blood cholesterol levels.
Insoluble fiber is a form of fiber that does not dissolve in water. This type, found in whole wheat flour, wheat bran, veggies, and nuts help to prevent constipation and irregularity.
So why should you eat a diet high in fiber?
1. Helps to keep your colon healthy and free of diseases
2. Lowers blood cholesterol levels – studies have also shown that fiber can reduce blood pressure and inflammation, which keeps the heart healthy as well.
3. Helps control blood sugar levels – soluble fibers help to slow the absorption of sugars while insoluble fibers have been linked to preventing type 2 diabetes.
4. Aids in weight loss and maintenance – Because foods rich in fiber require more chewing time, your body is able to more accurately register that you are not hungry anymore. This prevents you from overeating. A diet rich in fiber also tends to make a meal feel larger and longer so that you feel full longer. They also tend to be less energy dense, meaning that they have fewer calories in larger portions.
So eating fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds can be very beneficial as well as necessary for your diet. You should always drink plenty of water when eating fiber rich foods; fiber works best when it absorbs water!
However, it is important to note that more processed foods such as canned fruits and veggies, non-whole grain products (white breads and cereals), and pulp free juices have very low amounts of fiber. The refining process of grains strips the outer layer of the grain, removing a lot of the fiber and nutrients from it. Eating your fruits and veggies without the skins also reduces the fiber content. So your best bet is to stick with the whole fruit, veggie, and grain product to get the most out of your food. There are so many rich nutrients and vitamins that you will benefit from as well!
Tips for squeezing in fiber:
1. Begin with breakfast – Choose cereals high in fiber or products that have bran. I will be posting my favorite homemade bran muffins very shortly 🙂
2. Kick white outa your pantry! – Eat only whole-grain breads and pastas. Also try brown rice, wild rice, and barley to enhance some of your dishes.
3. Exchange whole grains in your recipes – Try implementing whole grain flour into your baking goods. Try using half white and half whole-wheat flour to begin with. It is important to note, however, that whole-wheat is heavier than white, so you may need to add a little more baking powder.
4. Eat your beans!!
5. Eat a piece of fruit at every meal! This is what I do the most.
6. Snack on raw veggies, dried fruit, or a handful of nuts.
So next time you’re at the grocery, make sure to stock up on your fiber rich foods!
*All information was collected from an article by the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fiber/NU00033