The Healthy Benefits of Fiber in Your Diet

A bowl of cereals and a glass of juice

You hear it all the time – you need to make sure you are getting enough fiber in your diet.  What exactly does that mean?

According to the American Heart Association, the recommended amount of daily fiber for women under 50 is 25 grams per day, and women over 50 years of age should try to get 21 grams of fiber per day.  For men under 50 the target is 38 grams of fiber per day, and men over 50 should try to get 30 grams per day.

What is fiber and what does it do?

Fiber is the indigestible part of fruits and vegetables which pass through your system and help you have bowel movements.  Fiber also:

  • helps prevent diabetes
  • lowers risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke
  • helps with digestion
  • helps feed healthy gut bacteria
  • reduces cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • helps with weight loss

How does dietary fiber help with diabetes?

Fiber slows down the digestion of food in your stomach, which lets the glucose from the food slowly enter the blood stream, rather than entering it all at once and causing blood sugar to quickly rise. 

There are three types of fiber.

Soluble fiber – this is fiber that dissolves in water and slows down your digestion, which helps lower your cholesterol and blood sugar.

Insoluble fiber – this fiber doesn’t dissolve and passes through the body quickly, helping your stools form and preventing constipation.

Fermentable fiber – this fiber can be both soluble and insoluble, and is important to help you form healthy bacteria in your gut

Bacteria in my gut? Is that a good thing?

Yes! Everyone’s gut (stomach and digestive system) contains what is known as the microbiome. This is a combination of different types of bacteria, tiny fungi and other organisms that help you stay well.   A healthy microbiome is a result of a healthy lifestyle and can affect everything from your immune system to your metabolism.  A diet rich in fiber-rich foods including fruits, grains, and vegetables will feed your body with nutrients and help create a richer, healthier microbiome.  Foods high in fat and sugar and animal products do the opposite.

Where can I get more fiber in my diet?

The important thing to know is that you can increase the fiber in your diet without increasing calories.  Fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, while most processed foods and foods like meat and dairy  products have little to no fiber at all.  Here are some examples:

  • Beans – 1 cup – 10-15 grams
  • Bran flakes – ¾ cup – 5.5 grams
  • Chia seeds – 2 tablespoons – 10.6 grams
  • Raspberries – 1 cup – 8 grams
  • Cooked instant oatmeal – 1 cup – 4 grams

As you can see, it really isn’t hard for those fiber grams to add up in your day if you are making healthy choices!

Try making small changes in your daily diet, such as:

  • Try oatmeal and fruit for breakfast
  • Change to multigrain bread
  • Snack on raw vegetables or toss them in your salad
  • Try brown rice instead of white rice
  • Sprinkle chia seeds on your cereal or salad
  • Add some beans to your salads or soups

These small changes can add up to big health benefits in the long run.  If you have questions about your digestive needs, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about your particular health concerns.

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This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor.  It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation.  If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).

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