Despite the American Heart Association recommendation of 20-35 grams of daily fiber, the average American only consumes 16 grams of fiber per day. Fiber promotes healthy digestion, prevents constipation, helps control appetite, stabilizes blood sugar, and clears the body of harmful cholesterol.
Board-certified OB/GYN and integrative medicine specialist Anita Petruzzelli, MD, at BodyLogicMD in Glastonbury, Connecticut, knows that people who don’t get enough fiber are at a higher risk of developing various health complications.
What is dietary fiber?
Sometimes called roughage or bulk, dietary fiber isn’t digested by your body and passes through the stomach, small intestine, and colon almost in the same form as it went in. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. In the body, soluble fiber helps lower blood glucose and cholesterol. Good sources of soluble fiber include peas, beans, carrots, oats, apples, and citrus fruits.
Insoluble fiber helps move material through your digestive system and helps prevent constipation. Good sources of insoluble fiber include whole wheat flour, nuts, beans, cauliflower, and potatoes.
How to get more fiber in your diet
Both fiber types are only found in plant-based foods like vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and seeds. You can increase your fiber intake by eating more fiber-rich foods, but it’s essential to also drink at least 64 ounces of water per day. Water ensures that the fiber you eat is absorbed by your body and keeps you comfortable.
You can get more fiber in your diet by:
Eating the rainbow of vegetables
Vegetables come in all colors, and including all of them in your diet ensures you get the fiber and other phytochemicals, minerals, and vitamins your body requires.
Substitute with fruit
If you tend to consume sweets between meals or as dessert, try substituting them with fruit. Fruits are excellent sources of fiber, including peaches, bananas, apples, pears, oranges, and raspberries.
Replace meat with legumes
If you eat meat at every meal, consider replacing the meat from one or two meals per week with fiber-rich legumes. Legumes, like beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas, and soybeans, will help increase your fiber intake.
Choose whole grains and brown rice
When consuming cereals or bread, choose whole grains like wheat, rice, corn, barley, oats, and quinoa. Instead of instant oatmeal, go with rolled oats or steel-cut oats, and instead of white rice, opt for brown.
Benefits of a high-fiber diet
There are numerous benefits to eating a high-fiber diet, including:
- Preventing constipation
- Reduced the risk of hemorrhoids
- Reduced risk of diverticular disease
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved blood sugar control
- Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Keeps you fuller longer (helping you maintain weight)
If you’re concerned you’re not getting enough fiber, vitamins, or minerals in your diet, Dr. Petruzzelli can help. Learn more about vitamins and supplements and how to ensure you’re getting enough of each to optimize your health by calling the office or scheduling an appointment online today.