If your diet is rich in fiber, you're probably eat fairly healthy. Most foods that are inherently rich in fiber are good for us in many, many ways. Most of us, however, don't get nearly enough of the rough stuff. In the US, fiber intake hovers somewhere between 10 and 15 grams - at the most. Recommendations for better health are between 25 and 38 grams per day.
Almost as important as it is to eat plenty of fiber, it's equally important not to jump from eating 10 grams of fiber a day to eating 38 grams of fiber a day. Gradually increase to let your body adjust. You could experience some, shall we say, discomfort, if you make too big of a jump too fast.
Where to find it
Fiber is found in nearly every unrefined fruit, vegetable and grain – basically anything in its whole form of plant origin. Ideally, a decent amount of fiber should be in every meal and snack we eat.
What it does
Dietary fiber breaks down into two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber plays a role in lowering bad cholesterol (LDLs) and regulating glucose levels in the blood. Insoluble fiber absorbs water into the intestinal tract. This type of fiber helps to regularly eliminate toxins from the colon.
Why you need it
Along with lots of water as well as plenty of healthy fats and protein, fiber (a carbohydrate) helps to foster optimum health. What’s more, every gram of fiber is four calories. However, because fiber is not absorbed by the body, it moves right through and can aid in weight loss. The primary benefits of a high fiber diet to you include:
- Satiety: You feel fuller longer.
- Regularity: Increased fiber consumption, along with adequate water, helps to reduce or eliminate constipation.
- Optimum Nutrition: Foods rich in fiber are inherently nutritious.
- Heart Health: Many studies suggest a diet high in soluble fiber helps to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.
- Blood Sugar Control: Fibrous foods help to regulate the role of insulin in the body, better controlling blood sugar levels.
Sample Meal Plan
Here is a higher fiber sample meal plan that might work for you.
1 c. Plain low fat yogurt w/cinnamon and 1 c. blueberries
1 Ezekiel (my favorite) English muffin, 1 or 2 eggs and 1 sliced apple
1 c. Oatmeal (cooked) with low fat milk, cinnamon and a small handful of almonds
Romaine salad with grilled chicken or chick peas (if vegetarian). Add a variety off vegetables
Whole grain turkey wrap with tomato, romaine lettuce
Lentil soup with sliced carrots and hummus
Vegetable stir fry (adding your favorite lean protein) with brown rice or quinoa
Spaghetti squash or whole grain pasta with turkey bolognese and steamed broccoli
Baked cod with steamed spinach and whole grain bread
Note: The meal plan above is fairly low in fat. Add healthy fats at your discretion. Also, the size of your meal depends on just how active you are, your gender, age, etc.