Remember when the word “fiber” used to make people snicker and look embarrassed? People aren’t snickering anymore, because they’re learning just how important fiber is and how getting enough of it can not only make you feel better, but live healthier, longer.
Fiber is a calorie-free nutrient that is necessary for maintaining regular bowel movements, controlling cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and helping with weight loss or maintenance. It has been shown to help reduce the risk of colon cancer, one of the primary causes of cancer death in the United States.
Fiber is present in food in two forms: soluble fiber, which is a sticky type found mostly in beans, dried peas, oats, nuts, seeds, and most fruits, such as apricots, bananas, grapes, and citrus. Soluble fiber is responsible for normalizing blood glucose levels and reducing cholesterol levels in the blood. Insoluble fiber is coarse and helps promote intestinal regularity. It is found mainly in vegetables, bran cereals, wheat bran, whole-grain cereals, and pears.
What You Can Do Now
Most adults consume about half of the recommended amount of fiber, which is 38 grams for males 19 to 50 years of age and 25 grams for women of the same age. It is important to get the recommended amount of fiber daily to help prevent age-related diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and atherosclerosis, and to help maintain skin health. Here are a few tips on how to increase your fiber intake. The nutrition counter in the back of the site also contains information on fiber content of more than 3,000 foods.
- Choose whole-grain breads, rolls, and pastas instead of those made with white flour.
- When appropriate, eat the skins of fruits and vegetables. Buy organic produce when possible, and always thoroughly wash produce before eating it.
- “Sneak” extra fiber into your diet: sprinkle a tablespoon of wheat germ on your cereal, choose granola for a snack instead of chips, add flax seeds and kidney beans to your salad.
- Choose bean dip instead of those made with sour cream. Serve the dip with raw vegetables instead of chips.
- Include one serving of beans, lentils, or split peas per day. These can be in chili, soups, stews, salads, or as a side dish.
- Include one serving of oatmeal, all-bran, or another high-fiber cereal per day.
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