Fiber is an integral part of the human diet, and while it’s easy to get enough, most Americans don’t. Found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, fiber is a carbohydrate that makes up the roughage, or indigestible part, of the foods we eat. A lack of fiber can result in diabetes, weight gain, overeating and constipation while the right amounts can help lower levels of bad cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Here are some tips to make sure you have the right amount of fiber in your diet and some of the best places to get it.
There are two kinds of fiber and both are important to maintaining a healthy digestive system. Soluble fibers, which absorb water and slow digestion, can help you feel full and have been shown to have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity. Soluble fibers are good for helping maintain healthy weight because the food that contains them typically takes longer to chew, giving your body time to register when it’s full. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, carrots, celery and beans. Insoluble fiber comes from fruit, dark, leafy vegetables, and whole grains. Indigestible, they travel through our guts without breaking down and help keep everything moving along. Recommended daily intake of all fibers is 25 grams for women under 50 and 35 grams for men under 50. Women over 50 should have about 21 grams per day, men 30.
You can get fiber from a supplement, but the best way to meet your daily needs is through a healthy diet. The key to getting enough fiber is a diet that is rich vegetables, fruits and whole grains. When first increasing fibrous food intake, do so slowly, as it may cause intestinal gas, cramps and bloating while your body adjusts. Drinking more water is also important because soluble fiber does soak water up and can lead to dehydration. Read labels to check out the fiber content of foods, and pick those that pack a punch. You can find three of those great for you foods right here. Easy ways to add fibrous foods to your diet include eating whole grain cereals or oatmeal for breakfast, adding black beans to salads and soups at lunch and substituting quinoa for pasta at dinner.
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