Fiber: An Important Carbohydrate | Piece of Lulu

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assorted sliced fruits in white ceramic bowl to get in your fiber


Fiber is the underrated hero of carbs. It has the capacity to help with blood sugar regulation, reduce your cholesterol, and help with weight management! With all these benefits just from eating more food, why wouldn’t you?


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What is Fiber?

Fiber is a classification of a carbohydrate that your body can’t digest. Fiber is typically spoken about in the same sentence as constipation. That’s because this special form of carbohydrate is considered indigestible bulk. These are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.

How Much Fiber You Need

It’s been found that more Americans consume 16 grams of fiber each day. This is a pretty low number, but that doesn’t mean you’re apart of it.

Each person’s fiber needs will vary based on a plethora of circumstances. As a general guideline check out where you fall in the Institute of Medicine’s fiber needs chart:

amount of fiber to have for your age

Before automatically assuming you need to increase your fiber intake it is a good idea to figure out about how much you’re eating in a day.

To do this write down everything you eat in a day, including the position sizes. If you make any alterations such as peeling you apple or potatoe be sure to make a note of it! Then, go through your list and look up how much fiber each portion of food you have contains. Add up these numbers and now you know how much fiber you eat in a day!

delicious breakfast with toasts oatmeal and pancakes

If you want to take this a step further for more information try repeating this process for two workdays and one weekend day. This way you can see if your day is actually typical. Plus, people tend to eat a bit differently on the weekend so having this information is beneficial to know!

Fiber Benefits

Consuming an adequate amount of fiber provides more benefits than just bowel regularity. It aids in cholesterol reduction, blood sugar regulation, and weight maintenance. This simple nutrient can even reduce your risks for colon cancer, breast cancer, and diabetes!

So yeah, fiber may seem like a simple little thing but it packs a big health punch.

Cholesterol Reduction

Soluble fiber utilizes its gel-like consistency to bind to cholesterol and carry it with it out of your body.2 So, if your doctor is on you about lowering your bad cholesterol (LDL), start to eat more carrots, oats, or other soluble-fiber filled foods! Don’t forget to keep drinking water too!

variety of vegetables on display for fiber

Blood Sugar Regulation

Unless you have diabetes or are in the stages of pre-diabetes you probably don’t understand the role blood sugar regulation plays in your health.

If you have large amounts of sugar in your bloodstream for too long it will lead to hyperglycemia.3 This means there is a lot of pressure on your blood vessels and organs. If this persists for too long they can start to break down.

While most carbs causes your blood sugar levels to rise, fiber does not because it is not digested by the body. AKA fill up on fiber to help reduce blood sugar spikes and ultimate blood vessel and organ deterioration.

Weight Maintenance

When you’re trying to lose weight you probably don’t hear that you should be adding in foods. In this case, eating more fiber-filled foods can actually help you lose weight.

bloated women measuring stomach

Fiber-rich foods tend to fill you up quicker. They also tend to be less calorie dense. This means you’ll be physically consuming more food, having less calories, and being more full! Win-win! Most of the weight management capabilities of fiber come from eating physical food, it is best to reach for fiber-rich foods when attempting to have more fiber instead of a supplement!

High Fiber Foods

In order for a food to be considered high fiber, it has to have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving.1

edamame with salt for protein and fiber
  1. Chia Seeds; 2 tablespoon serving, 10 grams of fiber
  2. Lima Beans; 1/2 cup serving, 7 grams of fiber
  3. Lentils; 1/2 cup serving, 5 grams of fiber
  4. Kidney beans; 1/2 cup serving, 6 grams of fiber
  5. Edamame pasta; 1/2 cup cooked serving, 6 grams of fiber
  6. Bran Flakes; 3/4 cup serving, 5 grams of fiber

Fiber comes from plant sources so if you are having a hard time increasing your fiber intake by adding in these foods instead try making your Mondays ‘Meatless Mondays’. You’ll be ending up replacing animal protein with more plant sources which come with fiber!

Good Sources of Fiber

Good sources of fiber are foods with greater than 2 grams but less than 5 grams per serving.

food healthy apple fall fiber
  1. Oatmeal; 1 cup cooked serving, 4 grams of fiber
  2. Broccoli; 1/2 cup serving, 3 grams of fiber
  3. Green Peas; 1/2 cup serving, 4 grams of fiber
  4. Brown Rice; 1/2 cup cooked serving, 4 grams of fiber
  5. Apple; medium size and with skin, 4 grams of fiber
  6. Peanuts; 1/4 cup serving, 3 grams of fiber

If you’re just starting to work on increasing your fiber intake go slow! If your body is accustomed to a low amount of fiber then you quickly switch up your diet and have a large amount of fiber you may feel a bit uncomfortable and bloated.

Fiber and Your Bowels

Fiber is usually associated with keeping regular. Yes, having enough fiber in your diet is essential to pooping regularly. Fiber is what adds bulk to your stool. Having stool that is physically a bit larger and soft it becomes easier to pass through your bowels. Because of fibers ability to collect fluids as it passes through your system it can help prevent water-y stools.

a person touching her belly

Types of Fiber

Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Think: the increase in size and gel-like consistency you get after warming oatmeal with water. Along with this, soluble fiber sources come from the pectin and gums. Foods with soluble fiber include: apples, black beans, and chia seeds.

Soluble fiber works by binding then continuing to move out the body.

blueberry bowl breakfast cereal with fiber

Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Think: celery. It will maintain its shape and consistency. With this, a plants hemicellulose and cellulose is the insoluble fiber. It makes sense as a stick of celery will maintain its shape in water because of its cellulose structure so, when you eat celery it will help with regularity.

This is the type of fiber you would be reaching for for constipation prevention. Foods with insoluble fiber include: whole grains and wheat-based foods, beans, potatoes, and cauliflower.

Tricks to Increasing Your Fiber Intake

Once you discover how much fiber you should be consuming and how much you’re actually having, it can seem a bit intimidating. Don’t worry! I have a few tips and tricks for you to amp up your fiber intake.

flat lay photography of three tray of foods food prepped
  • When you’re having fruit don’t remove the skin. For some this skin isn’t their favorite tasting part but it contains much of the fiber!
  • A salad often times has a ton of fiber but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvements. You can sprinkle some hemp hearts on top. This increases the fiber content without altering the flavor profile.
  • When having a sandwich choose the whole-wheat or whole-grain bread option to increase your fiber intake without even having to add additional foods to your day.
  • If you are having a smoothie this is the perfect time to sneak in additional fiber! You can add in a handful of spinach, a tablespoon of chia seeds, and flax to any smoothie without altering the flavor too much but increasing the fiber by 9 grams!
  • Make sure when you snack there is at least one component that is considered high fiber.
  • Be more open to beans. Beans are often times a great source of fiber. You can add some to salads, make a mashed bean spread for sandwiches, use hummus (garbanzo beans) as a dip, or bake/air fry chickpeas for a quick and crunchy snack!
a person holding a can of gummy candy fiber supplement

Fiber Supplements

If you attempts to increasing your fiber intake through food sources fails don’t worry! Fiber supplements do exist.

On days where you know you won’t be getting in enough fiber you can lean on a supplement. These supplements come in a few different forms. A gummy supplement is typically the most accepted and most likely to be utilized but capsules and powder mixes are available, too.

If you’re opting for a gummy version look for one with no added sugar. There are enough options on the market that you do not need to be having that!

Metamucil is a widely used powder mix that uses psyllium husk as the fiber source. Be sure to always use a very small amount and gradually increase the amount you use as you discover how it affects you.

For some, adding an additional pill to their morning is the best way for them to take a fiber supplement. A capsule pill can easily be added to a daily pill case so you never forget.

clear plastic container and medicine capsule

  1. Cleveland Clinic. 2019. High Fiber Diet: Types of Food & Health Benefits. [online] Available at: <https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14400-improving-your-health-with-fiber> [Accessed 23 March 2022].
  2. Lipid.org. 2022. [online] Available at: <https://www.lipid.org/sites/default/files/adding_soluble_fiber_final_0.pdf> [Accessed 24 March 2022].
  3. Kidshealth.org. 2022. When Blood Sugar Is Too High (for Teens) – Nemours KidsHealth. [online] Available at: <https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/high-blood-sugar.html> [Accessed 24 March 2022].

Disclaimer

I am not a physician; always speak to your doctor or Registered Dietitian prior to making any drastic changes!



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