What is Fiber?
Dietary fiber is the indigestible component of plant foods, while functional fibers are isolated non-digestible carbohydrates that can be extracted from natural sources or manufactured synthetically and added to foods/supplements. There are two types of fiber that can be found in food sources: soluble (which absorb water during digestion) and insoluble fiber (which remain unchanged during digestion). Soluble fiber is found in foods like oats, barley, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, citrus fruits, apples, and carrots. Soluble fiber may help to lower cholesterol, reduce your risk of heart disease, and regulate blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber is found in foods like seeds, vegetables, whole grains, and the skins of fruit. Insoluble fiber aids the digestive system in maintaining regularity and may reduce the risk of colon cancer.
What is the Recommendation?
As per the new 2015 Dietary Guidelines, the recommended fiber intake for women ages 19-30 years old is 28g per day and for males 34g per day. Aiming for about 3-4 servings of fruit and 4-5 servings of vegetables each day can help you to boost your fiber intake to the recommended values.
Top 10 Ways to Increase Fiber (Without Supplements)
1. Read food labels and look for products with at least 3g of fiber per serving.
2. Eat whole fruit over juices. Juices are stripped of their fiber and antioxidant content.
3. Substitute meat dishes (chili, soups, stir-fries) with beans! One-half cup of chickpeas has 8g of fiber!
4. Choose whole grain varieties over refined counterparts (i.e. 100% whole wheat pasta for white).
5. Swap white rice (0g fiber) for quinoa (1/2 cup = 2.5g fiber).
6. Snack on fresh fruits like oranges, which have 3g of fiber and raspberries, which have 8g of fiber per cup.7. Keep the skins on your fruits and veggies when possible to retain all of the fiber. A medium sweet potato with the skin on contains 4g of fiber!
8. Power-up your breakfast with oatmeal (1/2 cup dry = 4g fiber) + nuts (1-ounce almonds = 3.5g fiber) + flax or chia seeds (1 tablespoon = 4g fiber) + fresh fruit.9. Power-up salads with fresh veggies, beans, and seeds.
10. Power-up sandwiches by choosing a high-fiber bread and topping with avocado (1/2 cup = 5g fiber) instead of mayo.