Eating for Health: Why You Need Fiber in Your Diet
What is fiber?
Also known as roughage, fiber is a carbohydrate that comes from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. It is the part of plants that your body does not absorb. Instead, it passes through your stomach, intestine, and colon, and performs an important job as it does so.
Benefits of dietary fiber and why your body needs it
One of the most well-known benefits of fiber is that it supports regular bowel movements and reduces constipation. But keeping you regular isn’t the only reason you should add fiber to your diet. Fiber also:
- Reduces your risk of colon cancer.
- Helps manage your weight and keeps you feeling full.
- Lowers your cholesterol.
- Reduces your risk of dangerous conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
How much fiber do you need per day?
For your colon health, it is recommended that individuals consume 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day. This amount of fiber is important to help prevent the formation of colon polyps which may become cancerous in the future. Also, exercise is particularly important not only for your colon health but also for your overall health and well-being. In addition to your recommended fiber, aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day.
What foods are rich in fiber?
When you know which foods contain the fiber your body craves, it’s not difficult to eat the recommended amount of fiber each day. There are plenty of delicious high-fiber options that will please even the most finicky of eaters.
Nature’s sweets are a delicious way for you to add fiber to your diet. Not only will you be getting the roughage, but your body will also love the water, vitamins, and minerals they provide. It doesn’t matter what type of fruit – they will all give you that boost, but some have more fiber than others. For example, an apple has about four grams of fiber (just be sure you don’t remove the skin, because that’s where all the benefits are). Be sure to wash it well before enjoying. If raspberries are more your flavor, you’ll get a whopping eight grams in just one cup – that’s more than a quarter of your recommended daily intake in just one item!
If you’re trying to increase your fiber intake, you can’t go wrong with vegetables. Along with fiber, adding these staples to your regular diet also provides you with key nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Leafy greens like spinach (two grams per cup) and kale (four grams per cup) are great, but so are cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, with one small stalk containing about five grams of fiber.
Beans and legumes
Beans and legumes also come from plants and are high-fiber options for you to consider adding to your diet. With so many choices, you won’t get bored, and you’ll definitely get your recommended fiber. For instance, a cup of kidney beans will give you a whopping 11 grams of fiber, along with some protein and iron. In fact, these nutrient-dense foods are often enjoyed in place of meats!
Nuts and seeds
Whether it’s for a quick snack on the go or for tossing into your salad or oatmeal, nuts and seeds are great sources of fiber. For example, a cup of almonds has almost 18 grams of fiber! And those little powerhouses known as chia seeds have an amazing 10 grams of fiber in just one ounce and will keep you feeling full for hours. Just be aware that while they offer fiber along with healthy fats, protein and other vitamins and minerals, nuts and seeds are high in calories, so be sure to limit your portions.
If you’re used to white pasta, white rice, or white bread, making a switch to whole grain versions can have major health benefits. It may take a while to get used to a different taste and texture, but don’t give up. Oatmeal is another great option for increasing your fiber intake while also reducing your cholesterol. A cup of oatmeal has an amazing 16 grams of fiber – and if you add fruit, then you’re getting even more! You can also mix up your whole grain intake with a variety of ancient grains that are so good for you.
Go ahead and indulge in a bit of decadence that’s good for you too! Not only does dark chocolate have some heart-health benefits, but you’ll also be getting some fiber. What’s not to love?
This article has other high-fiber foods you might enjoy.
Keeping your colon healthy
Eating a high fiber diet is one of the best things you can do for the health of your colon and for preventing polyps that can become colorectal cancer. Exercise is another. Moving will not only help keep your colon healthy, but your heart, brain, and every other part of your body too.
If you’re age 45 or older, even if you are completely healthy, it is recommended you get screened for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is becoming more common at earlier ages, but regular colonoscopy can identify and remove polyps before they become cancerous. Another way to get screened for colorectal cancer is with a special stool test called FIT or Cologuard.