Are you getting enough fiber? How much is enough? What foods contain fiber?
First of all, why do you need fiber? Fiber can help reduce the risk of developing various diseases such as colon cancer, diabetes, constipation, obesity, and heart disease. It can help lower cholesterol, lower blood sugar levels, and keep the GI system healthy. It also helps you feel full longer. Ok, great- that all sounds good, but how much do I need to eat each day? The recommendation is 21-25g per day for women and 30-38g per day for men from food, not supplements. Americans generally eat about 15g, so there is clearly room for improvement.
Let’s talk food sources. It is best to get fiber from whole foods, not processed foods. High fiber foods include vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
What foods give me the most bang for my buck? Beans are very high in fiber per serving. However, if you are not used to eating beans in large amounts, take it slowly. Gradually work yourself up to a full serving so that you do not experience bloating and gas. Also note that when increasing dietary fiber, be sure to also increase your water intake. This will decrease gassiness and help move the fiber throughout the digestive tract.
A good way to see if you are consuming enough fiber is by logging your foods for a few days, taking note of portion sizes and fiber intake. You can do this by hand and calculate yourself, or use one of the many free online apps. The USDA has one called super tracker that is user-friendly. If you are low in fiber, remember to increase slowly and also drink more fluids. Check back later this week for a high-fiber soup recipe, just in time for fall!