Feature Articles: Eating Well
Eat plenty of fiber for good health
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension
We often hear that we should get plenty of fiber to help with digestion, but fiber provides many other benefits as well.
Fiber helps to reduce the risk of heart disease by helping to lower cholesterol, lowering high blood pressure and preventing obesity. Soluble fiber, like that found in beans, barley and oats, helps to lower cholesterol by soaking up cholesterol-rich bile acids in the intestinal tract so they can be excreted. The risk of developing high blood pressure is also decreased by keeping blood cholesterol in check. High blood pressure often occurs because arteries have been clogged and damaged as a result of high cholesterol.
Many of the foods high in fiber are naturally low in calories. This includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains. When a person consumes a variety of these plant-based foods, they feel full sooner and longer, and consequently eat less. Consuming more fiber is a good way to limit calories in order to manage a healthy weight.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that men up to age 50 consume 38 grams of fiber every day and women of the same age group consume 25 grams per day. Men over the age of 50 should consume 30 grams of fiber and women should have 21 grams.
MyPlate recommends that the average American consumes 2½ cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit and 6 ounces of grains every day. If you do as recommended and make half of your grain choices whole grains, you are well on your way to consuming all of the fiber you need for the day.
Can’t think of ways to add fiber to your diet?
- Try eating an orange at breakfast instead of drinking the juice. The orange provides 3 grams of fiber but the juice only provides ½ gram.
- Add vegetables to your pizza.
- Be generous with the vegetables in casseroles and soups.
- Start the day with a whole grain cereal. One cup of cooked oatmeal provides around 4 grams of fiber.
- Switch from white rice to wild or brown rice.
- Beans are a great source of fiber – ½ cup of kidney beans provides 7 grams of fiber. Include beans in your meals two to three times a week.
- Add sunflower seeds, walnuts or almonds to salads or enjoy a handful for a snack.
There is one important thing to remember about fiber. Fiber soaks up fluid in your digestive tract so when you increase the fiber in your diet be sure to increase the amount of fluid you drink as well.
An additional benefit to consuming more fiber is that the foods that contain fiber are rich in many other nutrients as well. You are really giving your body a boost by including a variety of fiber-rich foods in your diet.
Last update: Monday, January 12, 2015