Most Americans do not get enough fiber in their diets. After a hard day at work, you may come home feeling sad, annoyed, and hungry. Your first instinct is probably not to eat an apple, but something sweet and processed. Comfort foods like cake and candy may ease the pain temporarily, but they do not benefit your body and health in any way. These particular foods leave you feeling unsatisfied, empty, and even more hungry. Foods rich in fiber like whole grains, fruits, and vegetabes have the opposite effect.
Compare a piece of broccoli to a piece of cake. The piece of cake takes roughly 30 seconds to eat. It's common to eat sweets mindlessly and in large quantities. Taking second and third helpings is unresistable. On the other hand, the piece of broccoli takes over a minute to chew. The broccoli head is filled with nutrients that support optimal body health. This allows you to eat slower and savor your food longer. It's crunchy and satisfying, requiring many bites to break it down. Broccoli is filling and it's rare for someone to go for a second and third helping of it. Fiber rich foods like broccoli will benefit your health and weight, but how does this occur? What properties are in broccoli that are not in a piece of cake?
Why is Fiber Important?
Fiber is the part of plant foods that the body can’t digest. If the body can't digest fiber, why is it so important to include in our diet? Fiber is essential in regulating bowel movement by adding “bulk” to stool; this prevents constipation. Eating a diet rich in fiber can also prevent high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and weight gain. Fiber helps you feel full longer because it stays in your gut for longer periods of time. This helps prevent overeating because you are less hungry. High fiber diets are also typically lower in calories and fat.
How Much Fiber Do You Need?
You're probably thinking okay so fiber is great and everything, but how much do I need to eat? Adult males need about 38 grams a day and females need 25 grams a day, but what does this mean? What does 10 grams of fiber look like? For example, a breakfast of ¼ cup oatmeal, 1 cup nonfat greek yogurt, ½ cup fresh blueberries would contain 10 grams of fiber, almost half a woman's daily recommendation! In comparison, a breakfast of 2 pancakes and glass of orange juice would only contain 2 grams of fiber. It's easy to modify your fiber intake by adding fruits and vegetables to your diet.
What Foods are Major Sources of Fiber?
It's surprisingly easy to increase fiber intake. The major sources of fiber in our diet are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. Three simple tricks to increase fiber intake are as follows. One is to swap your white bread for whole wheat. Two, try eating the whole form of a food rather than the juice counterpart. For example, eat an orange instead of drinking orange juice. Lastly, make sure to leave the skin on the fruit or vegetable (when possible) to increase fiber. Apples and cucumbers are crunchy and delicious with their skin left on. Make sure to wash them though! Incorporating fiber into your diet isn't hard and the health benefits are immense. Be prepared to get thin with fiber!
This blog is written by Etana Matatia, a student intern of Valley Nutrition Counseling with a major in Nutrition at the University of Massachusetts Amherst