The Skinny on Fiber

The Skinny on Fiber

If there were a secret ingredient that would help you manage your weight, stay fuller longer, improve your overall health and bodily functioning, and reduce your risk for major diseases – it might just be fiber.

Fiber is probably best known for promoting regular bowel movements (yay), and it has been shown in studies to benefit weight loss, lower cholesterol (Cheerios, anyone?), and reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease, colorectal cancers, and diabetes.

almond-butter-banana-toast
10.5 grams of fiber right here!

Dietary fiber is also known as “roughage” or “bulk,” and that’s essentially what it is. It’s the portions of plant foods that we aren’t able to digest or absorb, which pass relatively intact through the GI tract. Adequate fiber can improve digestion by helping everything else move along at a steady rate. There are two main classes of fiber – soluble and insoluble (we need both, but it’s helpful to understand the benefits of each).

  • Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel-like material (Think about the substance that forms when oatmeal, beans, apples, etc. are cooked). This is the type of fiber that can help lower cholesterol and glucose levels, yielding all those wonderful disease prevention benefits. It’s found in most all plant foods, along with insoluble fiber.
  • Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, and is a big promoter of GI tract motility. It’s found in the tougher, fibrous parts of plant foods – you can picture it if you think about celery strings, potato peels, and oat bran, though it’s found throughout most all plant foods. It could be your new best friend if you struggle with constipation or other GI issues (increase your intake slowly!)

It’s not hard to get enough fiber in your diet. Both soluble and insoluble forms can be found in most plant-based foods. The only foods that don’t contain any fiber are animal products (like eggs, milk, and meat) and oils. Refined grains like white bread don’t have any to speak of either, because the fibrous part of the grain is stripped away when these guys are processed. Some refined grains won’t kill you – but if they’re a mainstay in your diet, you’re probably going to be low on your fiber consumption.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has set recommendations for fiber intake, based on gender and age. Find yours below:

  • Females – Age 50 and below: 25g/day.   Age 51+: 21g/day
  • Males – Age 50 and below: 38g/day.   Age 51+: 30g/day

These numbers should come naturally if you’re getting enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – but for whatever reason, if you’re not getting enough fiber, just a few tweaks can fix that. There are many fiber supplements you can take if you need to, and fiber-enriched products (everything from brownies to yogurt), but it’s simple to get enough fiber from whole foods. Here’s my tips!

 

Breakfast – Oats are my favorite fiber-rich breakfast. Made this bowl with my family. Oats provide 4g fiber per 1 cup of cooked oats, and I had a piece of whole grain toast on the side for 3 more grams. Berries (2g in 1/4 cup), pistachios (1g in just 10 nuts), and a drizzle of almond butter (1.5g in 1 tbsp) amp it up and make it even more delicious! (Total here ~ 8.5 g)

prettiest-oats

Other great breakfast options – avacado (6.5g in half an avocado) on whole wheat toast (3g or more per slice); a whole fruit smoothie with chia seeds (5g per tbsp chia); and high-fiber cereal with banana (3.1g per banana). If you go with cereal, look for one low in sugar and with a short list of ingredients.

Lunch – I love almond butter and banana sandwiches on whole wheat. Any nut butter and fruit will do – try peanut, cashew, or sunflower seed butter with thinly sliced apples or bananas. If you wanna make it amazing, pull out a skillet and “grill” your sandwich in a little olive oil!

I also love avocado or hummus as a sandwich spread. Instead of your classic mayo, mustard, etc. on your turkey sammy, try guac! It’s overall better for you, and adds fiber too. If your having trouble with the “wheat bread” concept – some people don’t love it – try Dave’s Killer Bread or Publix fresh baked 100% whole grain. My faves. Make sure your wheat bread’s first ingredient is whole wheat or whole grain flour, not refined! That’s where they trick you.

{Note – gluten intolerant folks – whole wheat obviously isn’t your guy, but you can choose the highest fiber option available and get your fiber from a lot of other sources, too! Pile some veggie slices and hummus on your sandwich, and you’ll be even with the wheat guys.}

If you’re not feeling sandwiches – SALADS are an amazing option. The darker the greens the healthier, but they’ve all got fiber. Toss some beans on there, nuts, more veggies, and maybe a sprinkle of dried fruit. Choose a salad dressing low in saturated fat with a short ingredient list, and you’re good to go.

chickfila salad spicy southwest and harvest

All these tips apply for dinner, as well as one more big one – swapping your grains. Instead of white rice or pasta, if you usually have it, try brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta… the list goes on. These guys have more nutrient bang for your buck in general! Pair with sautéed veggies and a pretty piece of fish, and you’ve got… my favorite meal. There are infinite dinner dishes to help you meet your goals – pinterest “vegan/vegetarian meals” or “colorful meals” if you need inspiration! You can always add meat, but these veggie guys have really got the fiber thing figured out.

Moes bowl healthy swaps shrimp
Amped-up healthy moes bowl (brown rice, shrimp, olives, sautéed veggies, sprinkle of cheese, dash of sour cream) @ home with the family.
salmon-sweet-potato-myplate
Fave balanced meal – fish & 3.

Oh yeah, don’t forget about sweet potatoes! My favorite. (~4g/potato!)

Snacks – snacking on raw veggies and hummus, fruits (maybe with a little almond butter) and the like is one of the quickest ways to quench your hunger and also to boost your health (and to make you feel healthier, too!). Fruits and veggies also contain water, which help move the fiber along. More fiber + more water = a happier, healthier you!

Here’s my biggest disclaimer – increase your fiber consumption slowly. If you try to change it too drastically and too quickly, you’ll probably experience some discomfort (bloating, abdominal pain, etc.). Making, say, one change a day (swapping white toast for whole wheat, chips for veggies and hummus, etc.) will assure that your tummy’s microflora have time to adjust to the change in their environment. That’s really what happens! And don’t forget the water to help your body reduce any bloating that might occur. Aim for at least half your weight (lbs.) in water (ounces) a day – or more if you’re pretty physically active. I usually drink at least 100 oz/day, but I’m part camel (kidding). It’s usually best to err on the side of more, but no need to drown yourself.

Fiber helps keep you fuller for longer because it literally fills you up! So, making these swaps should help you to feel more satisfied every day. Studies have actually proven that women lose more weight when consuming more fiber. This should translate to weight maintenance, as well. Less cravings, less hunger pangs? I’m in.

Stay colorful!

Rae

 

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