The Many Benefits to Fiber

Fiber has become a term that is often talked about, or marketed, for its many benefits. Besides keeping us regular (which is different for everyone), fiber can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, digestive problems, and weight gain. But first, what is fiber?

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by the body, and instead passes through the body largely undigested. This is where it can help with keeping us regular, which is important because you don’t want things sitting for too long in your intestines. What your body can’t (or doesn’t) want to use should be eliminated in regular intervals. (again, this is different for everyone).

Fiber can be divided into either soluble fiber, or insoluble fiber.

  • Soluble fiber - dissolves in water and can help lower glucose levels as well as lower blood cholesterol. This type actually slows down your digestion, giving you a sense of fullness for longer. Sources: oatmeal, nuts, beans, and apples.

  • Insoluble fiber - does not dissolve in water, therefore moves through your digestive system providing bulk to your stools, encouraging regularity and preventing constipation. Sources: wheat, whole wheat couscous, brown rice, legumes, carrots, and tomatoes.

How much fiber does one need to get all the amazing benefits? Just 25 grams for women, and 30 grams for men. After age 50, this drops down to 21 grams for women, and 30 grams for men. You can meet that by consuming 4.5 cups of fruit and vegetables. Unfortunately, most of us aren't eating that amount of fruits and vegetables, which is why fiber has become such a hot topic lately. The best sources of fiber are found in fruits and vegetables, although one can find processed sources of fiber as well.

What are some great sources of natural fiber? Check out the list below:

  • Beans (of any kind) : 1/2 cup equals 1 serving size

  • Lentils: 1/2 cup equals 1 serving size

  • Artichoke, cooked: 1/2 cup equals 1 serving size

  • Pear, raw: 1 medium equals 1 serving size

  • Pumpkin seeds: 1 ounce equals 1 serving size

  • Avocado: 1/2 cup equals 1 serving size

  • Apple with skin: 1 medium equals 1 serving size

  • Flax seeds: 1 tbsp equals 1 serving size

Focus on getting fiber from whole food sources, because when you consume, for example, an apple instead of a fiber bar, not only will you consume the fiber you need, but a number of vitamins and minerals as well, that won’t necessarily be in the fiber bar.

References:

1. Fiber. (2016, April 12). Retrieved June 26, 2017, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/fiber/

2. Benefits of a High Fiber Diet --. (n.d.). Retrieved June 26, 2017, from https://fiberfacts.org/for-health-professionals/benefits-of-a-high-fiber-diet/

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