Health benefits of fiber and the best sources

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You probably know that fiber is an important component of a healthy diet. But if you’re like most Americans, you don’t get nearly enough of it.

Although it’s best known as the nutrient that helps keep you regular, fiber has other great health benefits. That’s why doctors and nutritionists urge people to prioritize it.

“I always joke that fiber is my favorite word,” says Carolyn Suzy, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She notes that a diet high in fiber can help manage weight and regulate blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure — all of which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death among U.S. adults.

People who ate the highest amount of fiber were 15% to 30% less likely to die from cardiovascular events than those who ate the least, according to a 2019 meta-analysis published in scalpel. and a 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association Apoplexy It found that first-time stroke risk decreased by 7% for every 7g increase of fiber in their daily diet.

Aside from reducing disease risk, adequate fiber intake can improve your quality of life by improving digestive health and improving energy levels, says Dr. Mona Bahuth, a stroke neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. luck. “A well-balanced diet that contains healthy fiber has the potential to impact long-term wellness and brain health for everyone,” she says.

Here’s what you need to know to transition to a high-fiber diet.

What is fiber?

Fiber is a carbohydrate found in plant foods that the body cannot fully digest. In general, there are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. They are found in different sources, but both are good for you and perform similar functions in your body.

  • Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and help stabilize blood sugar and reduce cholesterol. It is found in beans, avocados and pears.
  • Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water and helps move food along the digestive tract; To prevent or relieve constipation. Insoluble fiber is found in whole wheat flour, broccoli, and potatoes.

How much fiber do I need?

Studies have shown that only 5% of Americans get enough fiber. Most of us fall very short, consuming only about 10 to 15 grams a day.

The American Heart Association recommends most adults get at least 25 grams of fiber per day — that’s about 8 to 10 grams per meal.

These guidelines don’t account for body differences like height and weight or health history, but your doctor or dietitian can help you determine the right amount of fiber for you.

What are some foods rich in fiber?

High-fiber food groups include legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Here are some of Suzy’s recommended high-fiber favorites:

  • Bean
  • lentil
  • Fresh fruits such as strawberries, oranges, raspberries, apples, and pears with skin
  • Fresh vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green peas, and potatoes with the skin on
  • popcorn
  • avocado
  • oatmeal
  • barley
  • peas;
  • Chia seeds

Should I take a fiber supplement?

There are dozens of fiber supplements on the market. But Bahuth says it’s best to reach for whole foods. Studies have shown that dietary supplements may not provide the same benefits, such as the feeling of fullness that comes from eating high-fiber foods. Supplements may also be missing vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that come from food – and these supplements may also cause gas and bloating.

However, there are some situations in which supplementation may be beneficial. “Be sure to talk to your doctor before you start taking a fiber supplement, as there can be interactions with some medications,” Susie warns.

How can I add more fiber to my diet without supplementation?

Here are three simple ways to add more fiber to your diet, according to Susie:

  • For breakfast: Add 1 tablespoon of chia seeds to yogurt (an additional 10 grams of fiber).
  • for lunch: Add 1/2 cup of green peas to your salad (4.5 extra grams of fiber).
  • For a snack: Add 1 cup of berries (an additional 8 grams of fiber).

“That’s 22.5 grams of fiber in addition to what you’re already consuming, and that’s all before dinner,” she says.

How quickly should I increase my fiber intake?

When increasing your fiber intake, be slow — you want to give your body a chance to adjust. “Adding too much fiber too quickly can lead to stomach distress (gas, bloating, cramping),” advises Susie.
Try adding one more serving per day of a high-fiber food to your diet for a week or two. If you feel fine, add another daily dose for a week until you reach your goal. “Increase your water intake as you increase your fiber intake,” she recommends. Fiber works best when it absorbs water. This will help to have a more comfortable experience in the shower.”

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