Ask Keri: I keep hearing I should be eating a high-fiber diet. Why?
Keri says: You see and hear about fiber every time you open a magazine, turn on the TV and walk down a grocery store aisle. It’s in our faces all the time because it really is that important.
Old school thought was that a high-fiber diet was something to worry about when your senior citizen discount became available. But the new school of thought is that fiber is a super important part of a healthy diet at all stages and ages.
Because it gets harder as we get older to change our diets, there’s no better time to start chowing down on it than right now. If you pay attention to the fiber buzz, you know that fiber keeps our hearts hearty and (ahem), our bowels regular.
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Why is a high-fiber diet so important?
Dietary fiber is the part of plant foods that your body cannot digest. It’s classified into two categories: the kind that doesn’t dissolve in water (insoluble fiber) and the type that does (soluble fiber).
Soluble fiber soaks up water like a sponge and turns it into a gel-like consistency during digestion; it slows the process of digestion and helps your body absorb nutrients. This is why you feel full for a longer period of time after eating a high-fiber meal versus a low-fiber one (ah ha!). Soluble fiber also helps to lower blood cholesterol and manage blood sugar levels.
Most soluble fibers also are known as prebiotics. Prebiotics feed the healthy bacteria of your gut, which may help improve your immune system, digestive health and aid in calcium absorption. Yes, you still need to consume probiotics, too.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, helps to speed up foods going through the body and bulks up your poop. (Sounds gross, but it kind of acts as a scrub brush going through your intestines).
A healthy diet rich in insoluble fiber is often touted as a best way to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. It also helps in preventing constipation and reducing the risk of colon cancer.
While I prefer to have you eat food and not numbers, you should know how much fiber you need, so you can be aware if you’re getting the right amount.
Men need about 30 to 38 grams per day and women need about 21 to 25 grams. If your food has a label, you can check out the amount of fiber listed and add up your daily intake fairly easily. However, many of the best places to get fiber come from healthy foods without labels such as fruits and veggies.
I want you to get most of your fiber from vegetables, fruits and whole grains, but when trying to eat more fiber don’t forget about sneaking more in in the form of nuts and seeds too.
So, there you have it. A rather blah subject, indeed, but super important for your insides. Now go get your fiber on.