Since one of the many benefits of fiber includes controlling blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, it seemed fitting to post an article about it during diabetes awareness month.
Other benefits of fiber include: prevention of heart disease by lowering cholesterol, preventing constipation and hemorrhoids, as well as preventing weight gain since fiber makes you full quicker and keeps you fuller for longer.
What is fiber and where do you find it?
Fiber is an essential nutrient. It is best known for helping to keep food moving efficiently through your body. It is found only in plant foods. Eating the skin or peel of fruit and vegetables will provide a good dose of fiber. It is also found in beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds. The fiber content of food depends on how refined the food is – the more processed a food is, the lower the fiber content e.g. 1 medium apple with the peel has 4.4g fiber vs. ½ cup applesauce with 1.4g fiber vs. 100ml apple juice with no fiber.
How much fiber do you need?
Most South Africans are not meeting the recommended daily amount in their diets. Women require 25g of fiber daily, while men should aim for 38g. if you are over the age of 50, you require a little less, being 21g and 30g daily.
You can increase fiber in your food in no time with a few easy and tasty substitutions. For breakfast, choose oats with nuts and few berries instead of a refined, low fiber cereal. At lunch, have a sandwich with whole-grain bread and include vegetables such as lettuce and tomato. Snack time could be a fresh fruit or whole-grain crackers with hummus. Supper time, choose brown rice or whole-grain noodles over white rice or pasta made with white flour.
A few foods naturally high in fiber include:
An important tip would be to increase fiber gradually in your diet and remember to include plenty of fluids. Fiber has a similar action to a new sponge, it needs water to plump it up. If you have more than your usual intake of fiber and not enough fluid, you may feel nauseas or constipated. A healthy fiber intake is a good judge of the overall quality of your diet. Aim to reach your goal with unrefined fiber foods so you reap all the other benefits they provide.