Most American adults 50 years old and younger consume just half of the recommended daily amount of dietary fiber: 25 grams for women, 38 grams for men. Past the age of 50, women should aim for 21 grams of fiber daily, while for men the number drops to 30 grams.
But it’s also important to note that there are, in fact, two types of dietary fiber:* ** Soluble fiber** turns to a gel during digestion. Sources of soluble fiber include oats, oatmeal, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, lentils, and some fruits and vegetables (e.g., oranges, apples, carrots).
- Insoluble fiber is not digested. It adds bulk to the stool and helps food move through the stomach and intestines. Sources of insoluble fiber include vegetables, whole-grains, and wheat bran.
A diet high in fiber, meanwhile, offers a number of significant health benefits. Here are four to keep in mind:** 1. Lower cholesterol levels**
Boosting dietary fiber intake from whole-grain products and soluble fiber sources have been shown to protect against atherosclerosis, which is this build-up of plaque in the arterial walls. Dietary soluble fiber binds to LDL cholesterol during digestion, resulting in lower LDL cholesterol levels, without decreasing HDL cholesterol levels.
2. Increased satiety, or feeling ‘full’
Satiety is that feeling of fullness you have after eating. Satiety impacts the length of time between meals/snacks, which in turn can impact how many calories you consume throughout the day.
High fiber foods typically require more chewing, which means meal times can take longer and further increase that sensation that you’re full. (It can take roughly 20 minutes for the stomach to communicate to the brain you are full. Take your time eating!)
Many studies have evaluated the impact of fiber on satiety. Whole grain rye, rye bran, beta-glucan from oats and barley are the fiber sources most consistently connected to increased satiety.
3. Reduced risk of colon cancer
Fiber adds bulk to your digestive system and stool. This bulk tends to shorten the amount of time it takes for waste to travel through the colon. Waste often contains carcinogens, so this shortened travel time is desirable in order to more quickly eliminate harmful substances and reduce the risk of damage or disease to intestinal cells.
When fiber is broken down in the intestine, the substance butyrate – which might inhibit tumor growth – is produced.
4. Reduced risk of type II diabetes
While fiber is a type of carbohydrate, it does not raise blood glucose levels since it is not digested. Studies find a diet high in fiber promotes reduced fasting blood glucose levels and hemoglobin A1C. Hemoglobin A1c measures your average blood glucose levels over the past two or three months. Dietary fiber is a desirable addition to your diabetes treatment plan.
Some additional health benefits that have been connected to dietary fiber include improved bowel function (or reduced constipation) and improved absorption of certain vitamins and minerals.
But please note: Do no not suddenly go from, say, 15 grams of fiber daily to 35 grams. A sudden increase will likely lead to gastric distress. Gradually increase your intake of dietary fiber and remember to drink plenty of water.For more guidance to lower cholesterol levels, access the free ecourse “ How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps” at http://lowercholesterolwithlisa.com.
Lisa Nelson is a dietitian/nutritionist with a genetic predisposition for high cholesterol and heart disease.She guides clients to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels through practical diet and lifestyle changes. Learn more and sign up to receive How to Make Heart Healthy Changes into Lifelong Habits at http://lisanelsonrd.com.
Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides clients step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so they can live life and enjoy their family for years to come. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques. She can be found on Twitter @lisanelsonrd and Facebook at hearthealthmadeeasy.