Dietary Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes; however, fiber is not found in fruit or vegetable juices nor is it found in meat. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Fiber provides a range of benefits including helping to control blood sugar levels, lowering cholesterol levels, maintaining healthy gut health, normalizing bowel movements and helping you to lose weight.
Soluble fiber gets its name because it can dissolve in water: aka water soluble. Soluble fiber slows down gastric emptying so it can make you feel fuller, longer, and can help with weight loss. It also allows your body more time to digest your foods, since it moves through your body slowly, thus your body is able to extract as much nutrients as possible as food slowly passes through your Gi tract. Soluble fiber does not contribute to blood sugar spikes since it is not well absorbed.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, this is beneficial for the body since it can ferment and provide your body with beneficial prebiotics which have been shown to improve intestinal health. Insoluble fiber helps you to pass stools more quickly and helps to prevent things such as hemorrhoids and constipation. This type of fiber is mostly found in the skins of fruit and in whole grains.
So how much fiber do you need? The institute of medicine recommends men 50 or younger to consume 38 grams of fiber per day while men 51 and older should consume around 30 grams per day. Women age 50 or younger should consume 25 grams of fiber per day while women age 51 or older should consume 21 grams per day.
Since fiber is like a sponge in the body, make sure to consume plenty of water (~ 2 liters a day for the average adult)so that you do not experience constipation.
So, how can you get more fiber into your day? Eat more whole foods. Here are some fiber rich foods
1 apple (with skin) 4.5 grams fiber
1 cup oatmeal 4 grams fiber
1 cup black beans 15 grams
1 avocado 10 grams
1 cup berries 8 grams
1 banana 3 grams
20 almonds 3 grams
1 medium carrot 2 grams
1 cup split peas 16 grams
1 cup whole wheat spaghetti 6.3 grams
1 cup brown rice 3.5 grams
2 slices whole wheat toast 4 grams
By eating more fiber you can begin to experience regular bowel movements, more sustained energy, and fat loss. If you are finding yourself becoming gassy or bloated from eating fibrous foods, then you may need to work with a dietitian to figure out which foods work best for you.