Conventional wisdom says that fiber is something you only need when you get older, but a high-fiber diet is important for your health at all ages.
Fiber is good for everyone, although television commercials show mainly middle aged people advertising fiber supplements. A little girl asks her grandfather why he chugs his fiber drink. A mom laments about being over 30 and finding a fiber supplement that doesn’t make her gassy. But dietary fiber is important for the health of people of all ages, regardless of what the media says.
What Is Fiber?
Fiber is plant material that your body cannot digest. Soluble fiber is fiber that forms a gel when it mixes with water. Insoluble fiber does not, and generally passes through the body intact. Insoluble fiber sources include whole wheat flour, nuts, and many kinds of vegetables. Sources of soluble fiber include oats, beans, peas, apples, citrus fruit, and carrots.
Fiber for Heart Health
Soluble fiber is very good for your heart. It helps to lower blood cholesterol, particularly LDL, or bad cholesterol. It also helps to regulate blood sugar. For this reason, soluble fiber is a very important part of the diet for people with diabetes. People who are at a higher risk of developing diabetes should consider a diet high in soluble fiber to reduce their risk.
Fiber for Digestive Health
Because insoluble fiber passes through the digestive tract basically unchanged, it is helpful in preventing constipation. A diet high in fiber can decrease your risk of gastrointestinal problems, like hemorrhoids and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, because the fiber promotes regularity.
Fiber may or may not lower your risk of colon cancer, depending on which study you read. But it does reduce your risk of contracting diverticulitis, an inflammation of the intestine.
How to Eat Your Fiber
While most Americans consume an average of 15 grams of fiber per day, the recommendation is to eat 30 grams of fiber daily. Many people do not consider their fiber consumption until they are instructed by a doctor to increase their intake. People who do eat 30 grams of fiber per day generally report that they feel better than they did before they changed their diet, but sometimes it can difficult to eat all of that fiber.
The most natural sources of fiber are fresh fruits and vegetables that still have their peel or skin on. Removing the skin from a baked potato or peeling an apple removes much of the fiber content. Bran and whole grains are other good sources of fiber.
Because many people don’t always eat the fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains that they should, there are a number of commercial products on the market that pack a lot of fiber into a tasty package.
Lender’s 100% Whole Wheat Bagels contain 10 grams of fiber per bagel.
Fiber One Chewy Bars contain 9 grams of fiber per granola bar, and come in delicious flavors like Oats & Chocolate, Oats & Peanut Butter, and Oats & Caramel.
Fiber One Cereal contains 28.5 grams of fiber per cup, almost a full day’s supply.
All-Bran Cereal contains 19.5 grams of fiber per cup.
Whichever high-fiber foods you decide to add to your diet, be sure to introduce fiber slowly. If your body is only used to trying to digest 15 grams of fiber each day, you may experience painful gas cramps and bloating if you go straight to 30 grams per day.