FIBER: An essential key you might be missing

 
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You’re beginning your health, fitness and wellness journey and you might be asking yourself some of these questions

  • How many carbs am I suppose to be eating?

  • What are the best supplements to take?

  • What diet is the best?

  • Should I watch my sugar and salt intake?

  • How much protein should I be eating on a daily basis?

YES, these are all valid questions and play an integral role in achieving your desired results. However, what about FIBER!?

You might have heard about it, seen it on nutrition labels, but maybe never gave it the attention it deserves. Well, you’ve come to the right place to get a better understanding of how this “roughage” or portion of plant-derived food could be what you’re missing.

WHAT IS FIBER?

Dietary fiber is a plant-based nutrient, sometimes called roughage or bulk. It is a type of carbohydrate but, unlike other carbs, it cannot be broken down into digestible sugar molecules. It is important to digestion, regularity, weight management, blood sugar regulation, cholesterol maintenance and more.

The Institute of Medicine has set a recommended daily amount (RDA) for fiber intake. Men ages 50 and younger should consume 38 grams of fiber per day, and men 51 and older should consume 30 grams. Women ages 50 and younger should consume 25 grams per day, while their older counterparts should have 21 grams. Most Americans do not consume enough fiber, according to the institute.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

It slows the rate that sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream; thus when you eat foods high in fiber such as beans and whole grains, the sugar in those foods are absorbed slower, which keeps your blood glucose levels from rising too fast.

High fiber intake seems to protect against several heart-related problems. "There is evidence that high dietary fiber consumption lowers 'bad' cholesterol concentrations in the blood and reduces the risk for developing coronary artery disease, stroke and high blood pressure," says Dr. Somdat Mahabir, a nutrition and disease expert with NIH's National Cancer Institute.

Fiber may also lessen the risk for Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes. Fiber in the intestines can slow the absorption of sugar, which helps prevent blood sugar from spiking. "With diabetes, it's good to keep glucose levels from peaking too much," explains Dr. Gertraud Maskarinec of the University of Hawaii.

HOW CAN WE GET MORE FIBER IN OUR DIET?

  • Switch to whole grains. Look for bread that lists whole-grain flour as the first ingredient. Experiment with barley, wild or brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and bulgur.

  • Bulk up your breakfast. Choose a high-fiber cereal (5 or more grams per serving) or make a bowl of oatmeal and top it with nuts and fruit.

  • Add more vegetables. Keep a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, spinach or broccoli florets for a quick addition to any pasta sauce or rice dish. Start dinners with a tossed salad (preferably with leafy green lettuce).

  • Switch to whole grains. Look for bread that lists whole-grain flour as the first ingredient. Experiment with barley, wild or brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and bulgur.

  • Don't forget legumes. Try peas, different kinds of beans (pinto, kidney, lima, navy and garbanzo) and lentils.

  • Snack on fruit, nuts and seeds. Grab a piece of fruit such as an apple, pear or banana. Keep some almonds, sunflower seeds and pistachios handy. Low-fat popcorn or sliced vegetables and hummus also make a great snack.