Fiber: The Diet Workhorse

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Fiber has many health benefits, from lowering cholesterol levels to keeping you feeling full longer. Find out which high-fiber foods to add to your diet.

Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH If you're trying to diet and finding it too tough to restrict calories because you're always starving, fiber may be just what you're lacking. "It keeps you feeling fuller for longer. "You don't get as hungry as quickly, so it helps when somebody's trying to cut back on calories."

Fiber is a carbohydrate, but unlike other carbohydrates, it doesn't get broken down by your body, says Meyerowitz.

Simple carbohydrates, continues Meyerowitz, don't offer the same filling benefits. "With fiber added in, you're more satisfied. Fiber doesn't make the blood sugar go up quite as quickly. It allows the sugar to get into your system more slowly.
Beyond being a diet aid, there are many health benefits of fiber, including:

Lowering cholesterol levels
Improving digestion
Reducing diabetes risk
Improving heart health
Reducing constipation
Reducing the risk of diverticulitis (inflammation of the intestines)
Maintaining steady control of blood sugar
Fiber in the Diet: Where to Find Fiber

Fiber is always found in edible plant materials and in the healthiest foods, like whole grains as well as fruits and vegetables. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. "They act differently in your body when they're being processed. “Soluble fiber can be somewhat dissolved by water; insoluble fiber can't."

It's best that you get the fiber you need each day from foods in your diet rather than supplements. Most people need between 20 and 35 grams of fiber each day. Some good fiber-rich food choices are:

Whole-grain breads, cereals, and pastas
Fruits and vegetables
Brown rice
Dried beans
Getting fiber is great, but don't suddenly jump on the fiber bandwagon and ramp up your intake all at once. Take it slowly, and gradually increase your fiber each day to prevent side effects like diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, and gas.

Fiber in the Diet: Smart Choices

Now that you know what foods are fiber-rich and good for you, it's time to start finding ways to work them into your daily meals and snacks. Try these tips to get more fiber every day:

Have oatmeal or whole-grain cereal for breakfast; top with some fresh fruit.
Eat fruits and veggies raw and with skins for more fiber (if appropriate).
Snack on fruits — dried or fresh is fine.
Have bulgur, barley, or couscous as a side dish.
Munch on popcorn when you need a snack.
Switch to brown rice from white rice.
Replace white pasta with whole-wheat pasta in your favorite dish.
Add vegetables to pastas and other dishes.
Get a minimum of 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of veggies every day. Choose those highest in fiber like pears, berries, apples, spinach, sweet potatoes, and peas.
Have a bran muffin for breakfast or a snack.
Fiber is filling, delicious, and one of the healthiest things you can eat. There are a lot of easy and tasty ways to make fiber a big part of every day, and you'll quickly reap the health benefits. It's a simple way to feel full, be fit, and get your body into a healthy shape.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    This was a terrific share..I learned a few things..thank you!
    3145 days ago
    I love high fiber foods.
    3145 days ago
    great blog thanks. emoticon
    3145 days ago
    great info - thanks for sharing x
    3146 days ago
  • SUNNY332
    Great post. I am paying more attention these days to the fiber content in foods so I can increase my fiber intake and so far, so good.

    Take care and have a emoticon day.

    3146 days ago
    Thank you--I've been needing this! I have IBS, and my doctor has said that I need at least 30 grams of fibre a day, and can have even as much as 50 without suffering. So I've been trying to add more fibre into my diet, but don't like the idea of using bars, tablets or powders if I don't have to. By following the SparkPeople Meal Plan, I've been able to find the fibre I need by adding some of the foods you mentioned, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains into my diet. At the end of the day, if I look at my Nutrition Tracker and find I could use a few more grams, I just have some baby spinach or celery so that I don't add a bunch of calories as well. Thanks for the other tips!
    3146 days ago
    Really good information ~ Thanks! emoticon
    I don't know why people use short-cuts to get their fiber, like chewing tablets or drinking powders, which may have only 1 or 2 or 3 grams per serving. It's so much easier to get the needed grams through food, and delicious too!
    The best advice I can add to your blog is to remind everyone to CHECK the NUTRITION LABELS: the front may say "Fiber" this and "Fiber" that, but only by reading the list of fat/ carbs/ fiber/ sugar/ protein/ etc do you know what you're really getting.
    3146 days ago
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