There are many health giving benefits of high fiber foods. Your parents were right when they told you to eat your veges. Having a daily diet rich in high fiber foods is an easy way to assist with bowel health, reduce bad cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar levels, and help manage weight.
What is fiber?
Fiber is a dietary product derived from plant sources. These plant products are not broken down in the digestive process. As a result of this, the bulk, or fiber, passes through the stomach and intestines relatively unchanged. Fiber is not absorbed by the body. There are 2 types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
* soluble fibers are those which will break down in water and include psyllium, oats, apples, carrots, peas, citrus fruits, and barley. Soluble fibers will form a gel like substance and are valuable for reducing the bad blood cholesterol and lowering glucose levels.
* insoluble fibers, as the name would suggest, do not break down when in contact with water. Nuts, vegetables, whole wheat, and wheat bran are excellent sources of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is important for maintaining food bulk as it passes through the bowel, and will aid those who suffer from conditions such as constipation and hemorrhoids.
What are good sources of high fiber foods?
It is important to consume both soluble and insoluble fiber on a daily basis. It is an excellent idea to vary your fiber sources to maintain a healthy and well balanced diet. Refined foods such as white flours and rices have a lot of their fiber removed in the processing. Peeling edible skins from fruit and vegetables will also reduce the fiber count of those foods. Legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits will all provide varying amounts of fiber.
These are some of the higher fiber content foods:
* beans such as kidney, lima, black beans, and baked beans.
* vegetables such as peas, broccoli, green beans, artichoke, turnips, and corn.
* fruits such as pears, raspberries, apples, figs, blueberries, peaches, oranges, strawberries, and apricots.
* nuts such as almonds, cashews, peanuts, and pistachios.
* others such as oats, wholemeal flours and pastas, wholemeal bread, and popcorn.
How much fiber should you eat?
As a rough estimate, men under 50 should consume 38 grams daily, while men over 50 need 30 grams. Women under the age of 50 should consume 25 grams daily, and women over 50 need 21 grams. Children’s needs vary greatly depending upon their age.
Health benefits of high fiber diet:
* assists in weight loss. High fiber foods tend to take longer to chew and are more bulky. This aids in filling you up sooner, and leaving you feeling satisfied for longer. High fiber foods tend to have less empty calories and generally make for healthy snacks.
* reduces bad cholesterol. Soluble fibers tend to help absorb the harmful LDL’s.
* prevents constipation. Fiber adds bulk to your food, making passage through the intestine much easier. Be sure to also drink plenty of water.
* assists blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber slows down the absorption of sugars in foods through to the bloodstream. This can be particularly helpful for diabetics.
* reduces risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Easy ways to increase your fiber:
* add psyllium husks to breakfast cereals and yogurts.
* bake with wholemeal flours instead of plain flour.
* feed the family wholemeal pastas, and use brown rice instead of white.
* buy breads with fiber added, or the wholemeal varieties.
* leave the skin on your fruit.
* add extra vegetables to your dinner.
A diet rich in high fiber foods has been proven to reduce the incidence of colon (bowel) disease, reduce bad cholesterol levels, assist with weight management, and stabilise blood sugar levels. For more information on high fiber foods the Mayo clinic has an excellent fiber chart which you can access here Mayo Clinic’s Fiber Chart.