We have all heard, and probably used, this word in relation to food.
What is it really and why do we care?
Fiber is a carbohydrate in foods that your body is unable to digest. And you need it! For a variety of reasons…
There are two types of fiber:
- Soluble fiber is able to be digested by bacteria in your gut (large intestines). The byproduct of this is nutrients that your body can absorb and use, including fatty acids and vitamin K. This fiber will attract and bind to cholesterol in the form of bile and carry it out of the body, lowering re-absorption of cholesterol back into your blood. Soluble fiber also helps to regulate blood sugars by slowing down digestion of other carbohydrates present.
- Insoluble fiber is responsible for the bulk of your feces, it helps move things along in your intestines to prevent backup or blockage, i.e. constipation, as well as absorb and hold water to prevent diarrhea.
Fiber also contributes to satiety, as it fills us up, signaling that we are full. Since fiber is not digested, it does not contain calories, and is a good way to help regulate how much we consume.
Where do we get fiber?
- The magical fruit! They get their bad wrap for causing gas because of the high fiber they contain. The gas is another byproduct of bacteria digesting fiber in the gut.
- 1 cup beans= average 10-15 grams of fiber
- Fruits and veggies
- Soluble= inside of the produce
- Insoluble= outside layer, stems and seeds of the produce
- NOTE: there is no fiber in juice
- 1 cup of fruit or veggies= average 3-6 grams of fiber
- Whole grains
- The fiber is in the “whole” portion of the grain. The husk, or outer layer, is full of fiber and other nutrients. This is the part that is lost when grains are processed, leaving a white polished center, which is starchy, lower in nutrients, and digests quickly into glucose (sugar).
- Examples= amaranth, barley, buckwheat, corn, (including whole cornmeal and popcorn) millet, oats, quinoa, rice, rye, sorghum, teff, triticale, and wheat.
- 1 cup whole grain= average 3-6 grams of fiber
- Nuts and seeds
- Nuts and seeds are small and they contain many nutrients bound up between fibers, so help out and chew well to utilize them to their full potential.
- ¼ cup nuts and seeds= average 3-4 grams of fiber
How much do we need?
Recommended fiber intake is 25-35g a day. The average American only gets half of this. I encourage you to add up your fiber intake for a day and see how you compare!
If you are someone who is lacking in fiber and you want to increase it, start with increasing whole foods with fiber, not supplements, and do so slowly as to not irritate the gut. Too much fiber too quickly can cause the same digestive concerns as not having enough fiber; bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
Fiber Filled Recipes
Roasted artichokes, 10 grams of fiber per artichoke
- Per-heat oven to 400° F.
- Cut off the very tips of the top of the artichokes and spread out the pedals.
- Wrap whole artichokes in aluminum foil, leaving the top open.
- Drizzle 1 tablespoons olive or avocado oil over top of artichokes and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon each ground pepper, salt, garlic and oregano (optional to use other spice and herbs as well).
- Close aluminum foil over top of artichoke so none is exposed. Place artichokes side by side on baking dish or sheet, as upright as possible.
- Let roast 60 minutes, rotating artichokes every 30 minutes.
Berry salad, 4 grams of fiber per 2 cup greens and 1/2 cup berry mix
- Toss 1 cup fresh blueberries or raspberries and 1 cup fresh, sliced strawberries with 1 ounce crumbled goat cheese, 1 handful of chopped mint or basil leaves, 1/4 cup sliced almonds, 1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon avocado or grape seed oil.
- Serve chilled over spinach, arugula or mixed greens.
Museli, 5 grams of fiber in ¼ cup
- 2-3 cups old fashion rolled oats
- ½ cup dried fruit of choice, diced into small pieces (ex= dates, raisins, cranberries, cherries, apricots, apples)
- ½ cup pecan or walnut pieces
- ¼ cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds
- Directions: mix ingredients together in mixing bowl, serve with milk or yogurt and fresh berries or sliced bananas. Store in air tight container.