To get more fiber in your diet you need to eat more foods that contain dietary fiber, such as fruits, nuts, or legumes.
You can also take a fiber supplement.
Just remember to keep in mind that supplementation of any kind is not enough for your overall health and fitness needs. Exercise is important. Go PRO today for access to certified personal trainers, workout plans, and more.
What Is Dietary Fiber?
Dietary fiber is basically the part of a plant that your body cannot digest. It is sometimes called roughage, or bulk, and it generally passes through your body intact, unlike fats and carbohydrates that get absorbed along the way.
There are two basic types of dietary fiber. There is insoluble fiber, which usually comes from wheat and other grains and does not dissolve in water.
Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water and generally comes from fruits, legumes, oats, and barley. Both have benefits and should be part of a healthy diet.
How Does Dietary Fiber Fit into Your Overall Health?
Dietary fiber is an essential part of anyone’s diet. In fact, it is recommended that one should consume a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day. For those with digestive problems or concerns about heart health, a high fiber diet could be a major benefit.
The best way to get fiber is by eating fiber-rich foods like nuts, legumes, and whole grains. However, a fiber supplement can help some people if they can’t get enough fiber through natural means.
What Are the Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber?
Fiber can do a lot for your digestive system. Fiber can add bulk to the stool and soften it, making it easier to pass and thus relieving constipation.
A high fiber diet may reduce your risk of hemorrhoids or diverticulitis. Fiber from food may also provide some relief from symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
For your heart, soluble fiber may lower levels of low-density protein or “bad” cholesterol. There is also some evidence that more fiber in the diet can help the heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation.
Other possible health benefits of dietary fiber weight loss and better control of blood sugar levels. Fiber helps with weight loss by requiring more chewing time and making a meal seem larger. This gives the body more of a chance to register that hunger has been satiated.
Soluble fiber also helps slow the absorption of sugar. This not only helps control blood sugar levels but may actually reduce one’s risk of Type II diabetes.
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What Foods Contain Dietary Fiber?
There are many foods that contain fiber. Legumes are an excellent source of dietary fiber, with lentils and beans yielding between 4 and 15 grams of fiber per serving. Nuts are good, too, with up to 16 grams of fiber per serving for some types of nuts.
Prunes are one of the best fruits for fiber, with 12 grams of fiber per serving. Apples, oranges, and bananas can give you three or four grams of fiber with each serving, as well.
Many other foods contain some fiber. Whole wheat bread, brown rice, and pasta can each give you two or three grams of fiber per serving.
Vegetables vary greatly in its amount of dietary fiber, with raw lettuce giving you only half a gram of fiber per serving, but cooked peas are packed with 8 grams of fiber per serving.
Other vegetables, raw and cooked, fall within that range. Even fruit juice can have a little fiber in it, although it’s usually less than one gram per serving. Check out the USDA’s Choose My Plate website for even more dietary guidance.
What Can Fiber Supplements Do?
If you can’t get enough fiber into your diet, a fiber supplement can help.
People with irritable bowel syndrome might want to avoid the supplements, however, because they sometimes cannot tolerate the side effects.
There are a number of supplements on the market, such as Metamucil, Benefiber or Citrucel. Most of these are soluble fiber made from psyllium, calcium polycarbophil, methylcellulose or wheat dextrin.
Fiber supplements come in the form of pills, chewable tablets or powder that is dissolved into water. These supplements are not regulated by the FDA.
Does Fiber Have Any Side Effects?
Dietary fiber does have some side effects and interactions. When someone increases their intake too quickly, particularly through fiber supplements, it can cause abdominal bloating or gas.
The best way to avoid the side effects from a sudden fiber increase is by slowly increasing fiber intake until the stools soften and become more frequent. Increase your fluid intake along with your fiber intake.
Fiber supplements can interfere with the absorption of some medications like aspirin, carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Tegretol) and warfarin (Coumadin), among others. Because of fiber’s effect on blood sugar, a person on medication for diabetes may need to adjust their dosage if there is a radical change in their fiber intake.
If you are considering adding more fiber to your diet or taking a fiber supplement, it is a good idea to consult with your physician. This is particularly important if you have a digestive disease, or if you are currently taking medication.
Remember to also keep in mind that exercise will always be an important component of one’s overall health. Get started on your fitness journey today by going PRO and gaining access to certified personal trainers, workout plans, goal trackers, and more!