You’ve probably heard that eating a high-fiber diet is good for your health. But did you know it can help with blood sugar control and weight management, too? Here we explain what fiber does for health and how to get it in the foods you eat.
What is fiber?
Fiber is the parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. It is in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes (beans, peas, lentils). It is not in meat or dairy foods. When you eat dietary fiber, most of it passes through your intestines and is not digested.
What are the health benefits of eating high-fiber foods?
Eating high-fiber foods helps control blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar.
Consuming fiber also keeps bowel movements regular and helps with bowel health. High-fiber foods such as beans, oats, flaxseed, and oat bran may help lower total cholesterol. Also, a high-fiber diet may have other heart-health benefits of lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation.
How does eating high-fiber foods help with weight management?
It usually takes longer to chew high-fiber foods than other foods, and that gives your body time to register when you're no longer hungry. As a result, you're less likely to overeat. Also, a high-fiber diet tends to make a meal feel larger and more filling and you stay full for a greater amount of time. Generally, high-fiber diets have fewer calories than low-fiber diets for the same volume of food.
How much fiber do I need?
Nutrition experts recommend that adults try to eat 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. Check your food labels—a general guide is that an excellent source of fiber contains 5 grams or more per serving, while a good source of fiber contains 2.5 - 4.9 grams per serving. Any increase in fiber in your diet helps.
What foods are good sources of fiber?
- Whole-grain foods: breakfast cereals made with 100% whole grains, oatmeal, brown rice, whole-wheat or other whole-grain pasta, and whole-wheat breads and whole-wheat tortillas.
- Fruits: bananas, peaches, pears, apples, berries, and dried fruits such as figs and prunes.
- Vegetables (fresh or frozen):
- Dark green veggies such as broccoli, spinach, brussels sprouts, and kale.
- Orange veggies such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and winter squash.
- Legumes: black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, chick peas (garbanzo beans), split peas, lentils.
- Nuts: peanuts, walnuts, and almonds are good sources of fiber and healthy fat. Keep an eye on portion sizes because they also contain a lot of calories in a small amount.
Try to get your fiber from food rather than taking a supplement, so that you can benefit from the other healthy nutrients in high-fiber foods. Also, increase your fiber intake gradually to prevent stomach irritation, and drink more water and other liquids to prevent constipation.
These articles are not a substitute for medical advice, and are not intended to treat or cure any disease. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid, or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of scientific literature may vary. Consult your healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, exercise, or medication regimen.
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