Importance of Fiber

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By: Cara Ayala RDN, NASM-CPT

Fiber could likely be the most important nutrient missing from your diet. The average American only eats 15 grams of fiber when recommendations are 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate that is important for motility, cholesterol, blood sugar, and can also reduce the risk of many diseases.

There are two types of fiber found in food: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is found in apples, legumes, barley and oats. This type of fiber is important for increasing stool bulk and can also help lower cholesterol by attaching to LDL-cholesterol and removing it from the body. Insoluble fiber is found in vegetables, seeds, whole wheat products and brown rice. This type of fiber promotes movement of stool through the intestine.

Since fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate it can help slow the absorption of digestible carbohydrates, which in turn can improve blood sugar. For example, a half cup of kidney beans contains 20 grams of carbohydrate and 6 grams of fiber. The net effect of carbohydrate on blood sugar from the kidney beans would only be 14 grams. That being said, make sure to choose whole grain and other high fiber foods instead of white, refined grains.

In addition to the health benefits of fiber, it can also help increase satiety or feeling of fullness. Fiber is a very important nutrient during weight management to help offset hunger from a decrease in intake and portion size. By consuming a diet high in fiber the decrease in calories will not seem as noticeable and it will keep you fuller longer.

In summary, fiber is an important nutrient that often gets overlooked. Consume a diet high in vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains to help meet the recommended daily intake of fiber. See recipe below for a healthy taco salad full of fiber and other nutrients!