I’m told I spend a ridiculous amount of time extolling the virtues of fiber. My clients are probably sick of hearing me go on and on about how to squeeze more fiber into their daily dining plans. But, the truth is, fiber is so critical to a healthful diet that I can’t help myself from evangelizing its benefits!
What is fiber anyhow?
Fiber is basically the part of carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, and grains) that cannot be digested. Fiber is only found in plant-based foods, never in animal-based foods. Most of us need 25-35 grams of fiber a day for optimum health, but most Americans get fewer than 15 grams a day. The best sources of fiber are things like:
- Whole grains (in breads, cereals, or on their own)
- Nuts and Seeds
- Beans and other legumes
- Fruits and vegetables
So what’s so great about fiber?
1) Fiber helps to fill you up and create a feeling known as “satiety”- a.k.a. a happy belly!
If you only know one thing about fiber this is probably it! Fiber is Filling with a capital “F”. The difference between a 200 calorie bowl of cereal with 12 grams of fiber and a 200 calorie bowl with 0 grams is unbelievable both in terms of how satisfied you’ll feel after eating it and how long you will stay satisfied.
2) Fiber eases constipation and promotes regularity.
Did you know that constipation is America’s most common digestive complaint? And in nearly all cases, it is treatable by increasing the intake of fiber. Since our processed-food-dependent American diet has had nearly all of the fiber stripped out of it, constipation has crept into the lives of many unsuspecting consumers.
3) Fiber can help to prevent a number of diseases, like heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.
4) When you eat more fiber, you instinctively eat LESS overall!
There’s data to back this up, folks. According to Dr. Neil Barnard, author of Food for Life, and part of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, for every incremental 14 grams of fiber consumed, calorie consumption goes down by about 10%…naturally! This happens because fiber is so filling that is acts as a natural appetite suppressant. How cool is that?
Ok, I’m sold. Now, how do I get more fiber in my life?
1) Load up at breakfast!
Choose a cereal with at least 6 grams of fiber/cup – some have considerably more – or a high fiber bread to make your toast. Add fruit (especially berries) for another fiber boost.
2) Consciously choose one more power-packed option during the day.
This could be 2 slices of high fiber bread for your lunch sandwich or a brown rice and beans side dish at dinner…but try to get another 12 grams or more from this choice.
3) Choose whole grain, high fiber carbohydrates at every opportunity.
Crackers, breads, cereals, pastas, rices, grains…always choose the least processed (aka highest fiber!) option available.
4) Add fruits and vegetables liberally!
Every time you are headed to the kitchen for a meal or a snack, think about how you can incorporate a vegetable or fruit into that eating occasion. Every. Time. (Hint: the skins often have the most fiber so try not peeling them to preserve all the health benefits!)
So there you have it, a short primer on fiber. I hope you’ll be inspired to try adding more fiber to YOUR life. I think you’ll be amazed by the results this simple change can produce.