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Why You Might Need More Fiber Than You Think

Fiber is a big deal these days. Every time you turn around, someone is telling you to eat more of it. But why is fiber so important?

Fiber is celebrated for preventing or relieving constipation, and eating foods that are high in fiber can also help lower risk for diabetes, heart disease and even some kinds of cancer.

Found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, fiber also plays a role in maintaining a healthy weight. Getting enough fiber isn’t difficult as many tasty foods contain this important dietary necessity.

But how much fiber do you need? Read on to discover the health benefits of fiber, how to choose foods that are high in fiber and creative recipes to increase fiber in your diet.

Why is fiber so good for you?

Fiber has more health benefits than you’d expect. In addition to normalizing your bowel movements by increasing the weight and size of your stool, it also lowers your risk for colorectal cancer. Fiber also:

  • Lowers the risk for developing hemorrhoids and colon pouches (diverticular disease).
  • Lowers cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber is particularly helpful in lowering total blood cholesterol by reducing the “bad” cholesterol in your blood, your blood pressure and inflammation.
  • Helps you reach your healthy weight. Fiber is more filling than other foods, which can make you feel full and satisfied. When you’re full, you eat less. Even better, high-fiber foods are denser and contain fewer calories than low-fiber foods.
  • Controls blood sugar levels. Fiber can improve blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar. Insoluble fiber is particularly good for reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease and cancer. Eat more fiber and you may live longer! Those who eat a diet rich in fiber have a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers.

Eating too much fiber causes some uncomfortable side effects like cramping and gas, so stick with the recommended daily intake 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.

Foods rich in dietary fiber

Fiber is either soluble or insoluble, which means it dissolves in water or doesn’t. Your body needs them both, so it’s a good idea to eat a diet full of both types of fiber.

Soluble fiber dissolves in liquid to form a gel that can play a role in lowering cholesterol and glucose levels. Foods that are rich in soluble fiber are items like carrots, peas, beans, oats, citrus and more.

Insoluble fiber remains intact (meaning your body doesn’t digest it) and helps your body move food through the digestive system. It can bulk up your stool, which is helpful for those who have constipation. Foods high in insoluble fiber include whole wheat flour, beans, nuts, cauliflower, green beans, potatoes, and wheat bran. 

Other high-fiber foods to include liberally in your diet include:

  • Broccoli
  • Avocados
  • Berries
  • Dried figs, prunes or dates
  • Popcorn
  • Raw and dry-roasted nuts
  • Apples

What about supplements?

Most doctors and nutrition experts recommend getting your daily fiber from food, but in the case where diet isn’t enough, fiber supplements may be an option.

Supplements contain what’s called functional fiber, which is either taken from natural sources or created. Created fiber includes stuff like polydextrose, polyols and maltodextrins, while extracted fiber is taken from plant cells, fruits and berries and nuts.

Talk with your doctor about which fiber supplement is best for you. They come in many forms ranging from soluble powders, tablets, capsules and even snack bars. 

When taking supplements, start with the minimum dose. If you take too much too fast, you can suffer from gas, cramping and bloating. All supplements should be taken with a full glass of water, and you should increase your water intake throughout the day.

Fiber supplements can interact with some medications and could decrease the rate in which drugs are absorbed. Some studies show that fiber supplements can interfere with drugs used to treat seizures, thyroid disorders, heart ailments, depression, diabetes and more. Most experts recommend taking your medication either an hour before or two hours after eating or taking fiber supplements.

Recipes to boost fiber in your diet

Most dietitians prefer getting your daily amount of fiber through the foods you eat. Choosing recipes that are delicious and high in fiber is easier than you think. Here are a few recipes to try. 

Black Bean Quesadillas

(click here to download the recipe)

Fiber Healthy Foods

Shrimp and Artichoke Pasta

(click here to download the recipe)

Fiber Healthy Foods

Stuffed Acorn Squash  

(click here to download the recipe)

Fiber Healthy Foods

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