The Amazing Benefits of Fiber
By Brooke Parker
Throughout my years of teaching weight management classes, I have often used this simple introduction for fiber, “Fiber is our Friend.” O.K. a little bit cheesy, but hopefully the thought stuck in my student’s heads.
This is one element of nutrition where you typically can’t go wrong. Unfortunately, ninety percent of Americans do not meet the recommended 20-35 grams of fiber per day (i). I believe this statistic comes from a lack of education along with a dependency on processed foods both for convenience and enjoyment. It does take a little extra planning and preparation to eat a fiber-rich diet, but it is possible! Hopefully the following information will inspire you to eat more of this important nutrient.
Why is Fiber our Friend?
– Aides in weight loss
– Not absorbed by the body, therefore it is calorie-free
– Fiber-rich foods can take longer to eat
– Slows digestion and keeps you full longer
– Helps eliminate cholesterol from the body
– Lowers the risk of colon cancer
– Normalizes laxation (keeps things moving)
– Aids in diabetes and insulin resistance management
Where do I Find Fiber?
Fruits – The skin is usually the most fiber-dense portion of these foods. Examples of high-fiber fruits include: apples with skin, pears with skin, strawberries, peaches with skin, oranges, and bananas. Fruits are a great way to gain fiber, but remember they are not always a low-calorie option. Moderation is the key.
Vegetables – the wonderful benefit of fibrous vegetables is the fact that they can be so high in volume yet so low in calories. If you enjoy chewing and swallowing this can come in handy when trying to maintain or lose weight. Vegetables allow us to eat a lot of food without adding substantial calories. They are my favorite “loophole” when counseling individuals for weight loss. Nearly all vegetables provide fiber; simply be aware of those “starchy vegetables” that also provide more calories. They include: potatoes, corn and peas.
Legumes – One of nature’s most balanced foods. Legumes, or beans, are full of fiber along with protein and long-lasting carbohydrate energy. Even if you are not vegetarian, an addition of legumes in the diet would provide a healthy, balanced addition. Examples of legumes: pinto beans, kidney beans, lentils, split peas, black beans, etc.
Whole Grains – This category is rapidly expanding as the food science industry gets on board. High fiber varieties of breads, cereals, granola bars and crackers are everywhere. Many of these even taste good! The rule of thumb is to look at the label in determining the best option. Look for two to three grams of fiber or more in breads, bagels, crackers, granola bars, etc. Look for six or more grams of fiber in breakfast cereals.
The bottom line is to become a more educated shopper and meal planner. Don’t forget to (1) Leave the skin on, (2) Be generous with your veggies, (3) Load up on beans, and (4) Look at the label.
(i) Collins, Michael. Your Friend Fiber. Turning Over a New Leaf: Your Heart-Healthy Living Guide. 2004, 5:16.
Brooke Parker is a registered dietitian currently working for Utah State University. Her specialty is eating disorders. She is the author of Love Your Reflection, recently published by Leatherwood Press. Love Your Reflection focuses on the connection between a non-diet approach to eating and techniques for a positive body image. Brooke is a wife and mother of three. © 2010