It’s easy to skip over the fiber content when you’re looking at nutritional information on food packaging. You’re busy focusing on the macro nutrient content of your foods, so you just look at the carbohydrate content without checking to see how much of that carb content is fiber.
However, fiber is crucial to maintaining a healthy metabolism and digestive system. Most people get only about half of the fiber that they need each day, probably because they stick to eating processed foods, which are less expensive and more convenient than foods prepared from fresh ingredients.
Food processing eliminates much of the fiber that is in foods like grains, fruits and vegetables. Knowing what type of fiber comes from what foods and how to incorporate both types of fiber into your diet can help you regulate your weight and blood sugar while making your digestive system more efficient.
Learning about Fiber
Soluble fiber turns to gel when it is mixed with liquid. It does this by binding with fatty acids, like the fatty acids found in the rest of your food. By turning into gel while in the stomach, soluble fiber makes it more difficult to break down food, slowing down the digestive process. This means that sugars in food are released into the body and absorbed more slowly, providing a regular, continuous source of energy for your body, including energy for workouts. By preventing a sudden release of a lot of sugar at once, soluble fiber prevents insulin spikes from occurring. Insulin spikes stimulate the body to store excess sugars as fat, meaning that your body will not use them for energy. Since your body needs more energy, you will feel hungry sooner than you would if you had eaten more soluble fiber. Soluble fiber also lowers bad cholesterol (LDLs).
Soluble fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and peas. It is also found in psyllium husk and flax seed, both of which are easily added to oatmeal, another good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, for a morning boost of fiber that will keep you energized throughout the first part of your day.
Insoluble fiber is fiber that remains whole even in the digestive system. This type of fiber aids in digestion by flushing solid waste through your intestines, including many of the toxins we ingest daily in food and from other sources. Insoluble fiber, like soluble fiber, is more difficult to digest, keeping the stomach full for longer periods of time and making you feel less hungry throughout the day.
Insoluble fiber mostly comes from the skins of fruits and vegetables. It is also found in leafy green vegetables, beans, whole grains, seeds and nuts.
Incorporating Fiber Into Your Diet
It is easy to incorporate more fiber into your diet. For breakfast, have one cup of oatmeal with 1/2 cup of berries (raspberries or blueberries are best), with psyllium husk or flax seed added. Salads with at least 3/4 cup of chopped vegetables like broccoli or carrots and 1/4 cup of kidney beans or chickpeas will add more fiber to your lunch. Have one cup of mixed vegetables with dinner.
It is also a good idea to incorporate fiber into your snacks. Seeds, nuts, berries and apples are all good choices for snacks that are usually easy to bring with you to work or school.
If you have trouble getting all the fiber you need, fiber supplements are an easy way to get it. You can also prepare meals and snacks the night before you will need them, which will give you more time to determine what kinds of food you need to eat and whether you will need a supplement that day.