Over the last few years, the word "fiber" has infiltrated the diet and nutrition market. We are constantly inundated with products that claim to give us whopping doses of the nutrient. We are seeing everything from added fiber in artificial sweeteners to power house food companies, such as General Mills, creating full product lines (E.g., Fiber One) dedicated to the fiber trend.
So, is this fiber trend for real? Does it really matter or is it just one more fad that will fade away like other nutrition crazes? Well folks, it is here to stay. Why? Because fiber is truly our BFF when it comes to having a healthy diet.
Here are the facts:
- What is fiber? Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods that your body can't absorb. Unlike other food components, your body doesn't digest fiber. Instead, it passes through your digestive tract, increasing the weight and size of your stool, while softening it, making it easier to pass.
- Types: Fiber comes in two formats: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water, while soluble fiber does dissolve in water to form a gel-like material.
- Why both are Important for your Health: Insoluble fiber increases the movement of food through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, helping to eliminate constipation and regulate the digestive tract. Soluble fiber can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. In general, fiber offers you and your body many benefits, including a reduced risk of diabetes and heart disease.
- Why it is Important to Your Diet: Since Fiber is a bulking agent, with no associated calories (you don't digest it), it is a great way to get full with little impact to your waistline. The more fiber you include in your meals, the more satisfied you will feel. Further, this feeling of satiation will cause you to eat less.
- When You Don't Get Enough: If you don't get enough fiber in your diet, you might experience constipation, infrequent or hard stools, abdominal pain and a possible general feeling of "sluggish bowels".
- Can You Get Too Much?: Although too much fiber is better than not enough, getting too much may cause excessive gassiness, bloating, abdominal pain and stools that may be uncomfortably frequent and large in overall volume.
- How much you should get: Ideally, you should be getting 25 to 35 grams of fiber a day. But guess what, the average American consumes only 5 grams of fiber a day!
- Best Sources: Fiber is found in whole foods including: whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Insoluble fiber is found specifically in whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts and most vegetables. While most fruits, beans, oats and barley provide you with soluble sources.
In short, the more whole grains, fruits and veggies that you incorporate into your diet, the better. A good rule of thumb is to try to eat an average of 2 grams of fiber per 100 calories. If you are on the run and need a quick snack that is pre-packaged, opt for those that are high in fiber and low in saturated fat.
Do you think you eat enough fiber? What are your favorite sources of fiber?