Fiber is the portion of plant foods that cannot be digested by your small intestine. Fiber plays various roles in your health and in preventing chronic disease. In order to reap the benefits of fiber, you must consume an adequate amount of the nutrient every day.
There are two ways to determine your fiber needs. A precise way to figure out how much fiber you need is to base intake on your daily calorie intake. You should consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you consume. If you consume 2,000 calories on a daily basis, you should be eating 28 grams of fiber. Generally, women under the age of 50 should consume 25 grams of fiber each day. Women over the age of 50 need 21 grams of fiber every day.
Benefits of Fiber
A diet rich in fiber can help increase stool bulk and keep fecal matter moving smoothly through your digestive system. This can help relieve constipation, which affects more than 4 million Americans, according to “Nutrition and You” by Joan Salge Blake. Chronic constipation can lead to a digestive condition called diverticulitis, which is characterized by inflamed pouches in the lining of your colon. Since a diet high in fiber can help prevent constipation, it also reduces your risk of developing diverticulitis. Fiber has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, which can decrease your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Fiber also reduces the rate at which fat and carbohydrates from the food you eat are absorbed. Delayed absorption helps decrease spikes in blood sugar, which can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
Types of Fiber
Fiber is divided into two classes: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water when it enters the body. Soluble fiber can be found in oats, beans, apples, barley and peas, according to MayoClinic.com. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water when it enters your body. Insoluble fiber is found in bran, whole-wheat products, nuts and most vegetables.
Although it is best to get your fiber through your diet, fiber supplements are available to help you meet your daily fiber needs. Supplements are available in powdered form, which can be dissolved in water and consumed as a beverage. Fiber supplements are also available in capsule form. Fiber supplements, which are often referred to as bulk-forming laxatives, are safe for day-to-day use. The Mayo Clinic notes that you should contact your doctor before adding fiber supplements to your diet because they can decrease the absorption of certain medications.
If you increase your fiber intake too quickly, it can cause flatulence, bloating, cramps and diarrhea. When adding fiber to your diet, make small changes that help you increase your fiber intake gradually. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends a number of lifestyle changes that can contribute to your fiber intake. Eating one cup of beans at least once per week can contribute 10 to 15 grams of fiber. Replacing white bread with whole grain bread can increase your fiber intake by approximately 2 grams per slice. The fiber content of fruits and vegetables varies widely, but eating 2 to 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables every day can help add a significant amount of fiber. One cup of raspberries, for example can contribute 8 grams of fiber and 1 cup of broccoli can add about 5 grams of fiber. Drinking at least eight 8-oz. glasses of water every day can also help your body properly digest fiber.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.