When we think about dietary fiber, most of us think primarily about digestive functions. However, consuming foods high in fiber can do a lot more than keep us “regular.” Incorporating plenty of fiber into our diets can lower the risk for heart disease, stroke, some cancers and diabetes, improve the health of skin and aid in weight loss.
Fiber is classified as soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and gastrointestinal fluids. It can aid in lowering blood cholesterol, glucose levels and fat absorption. Some soluble fiber-rich foods also feed the good gut bacteria in the intestines. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve and remains more or less intact as it moves through the digestive tract. This speeds up the movement and processing of waste, preventing gastrointestinal blockages and constipation, which in turn reduces the risk for diverticular disease.
If you aren’t getting enough fiber in your diet, try adding some of these fiber-rich foods:
- Legumes. Beans, lentils and peas are high fiber plant-based foods. Beans, in particular, are a good source of that fermentable fiber that feeds the healthy gut bacteria. Navy beans are one of the best sources of fiber and they are also high in protein.
- Vegetables. Along with being nutritious, many vegetables are a good source of fiber. Artichokes, potatoes and broccoli are all excellent choices to increase the fiber in your diet.
- Fruits. Avocados provide the most fiber, yet pears and apples are also rich in fiber. Just be sure to eat the skins of the apples and pears because the flesh contains much of the fruit’s fiber.
- Nuts and Seeds. Buckwheat (which is a seed, despite its name), chia seeds and quinoa pack a lot of fiber. Also, try snacking on pumpkin seeds and almonds to increase your fiber intake.
- Whole Grains. They help keep the heart healthy and make you feel fuller after meals. Try using freekeh or bulgur wheat instead of rice.
A diet that is high in fiber provides a myriad of health benefits so be sure that you and your family are getting enough! As you add more fiber to your diet, be certain to increase the amount of water you drink to keep your digestive tract hydrated.