Dietary fiber is a plant-based carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by our bodies. Fiber performs many important function including:
- aiding in the digestion and absorption of glucose and fats
- feeding our good bacteria
- helping to remove waste and toxins from our body
- regulating our bowel action
By performing these vital functions fiber helps with digestive health, weight management, blood sugar and cholesterol regulation as well as decreasing the risk of some cancers.
There are 2 types of fiber and both are needed in your diet. They are soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber expands as it passes through our system absorbing water creating a gel-like substance. It helps to soften stool allowing it to pass more easily. Soluble fiber also binds to substances such as cholesterol and sugar, slowing their absorption in to the blood. Examples of food high in soluble fiber include: oats, barley, nuts, seeds and lentils.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and passes through our digestive/intestinal system pretty much intact helping to prevent constipation. Foods high in this type of fiber include beans and legumes, asparagus, beets, broccoli and kale.
In working with my clients, I recommend a daily intake of 30 – 40 grams of fiber per day suggesting highly to aim for the upper end of this range.
Getting this amount of fiber per day can be challenging so try and incorporate these 5 strategies to help you reach your fiber goals.
1. Eat a variety of nuts & seeds
Nuts and seeds are chalk full of fiber. Think flaxseeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seed and hemp seeds. Then walnuts and hazelnuts and almonds. Whatever your fancy, consuming nuts and seeds as a snack or incorporated into things like salads are a great fiber boost AND a great segue in to my next tip….
2. Make Yourself a Salad Every Day
No better way to get fiber from plants than to eat them! And do it in style! Add peppers and cucumber and carrots and…
3. Keep the peels on your fruits and veggies
Fruit and vegetable peels are very high in fiber. Now of course you’re not expected to chomp on a pineapple casing but common sense will guide you. If not here is a short list: Cucumbers, carrots, peppers, zucchini, potatoes, apples and pears. Wash them up well and enjoy!
4. Make legumes part of your diet
Black beans, lentils and peas are but of few of this fiber packed group. Delicious, nutritious and so reasonably priced.
5. Drink smoothies
Smoothies to me are likened to the kitchen sink, you can just throw so much in to them. Consider this, a smoothie made with:
1 /2 cups of pineapple, 1 cucumber, 1 cup of parsley, 4 cups of spinach and some ginger has approximately 10 grams of fiber. Now add 1 Tablespoon of Flaxseed with about 2 grams of fiber and 1 Tablespoon of Chia seeds with about a 4 gram fiber count and you are butting up to the halfway point of your daily fiber goal in one tall glass!
I have one final tip before I close out here. Take a day and record your fiber intake. It will give you a good picture of where you are in relation to your fiber goals.
It may take a bit of time to reach your fiber goal but your body will thank you when you do.