By Kourtney Johnson, registered dietitian
Health concerns are on the rise due to many people participating in fad diets such as Keto and Whole 30. Such diets cut out entire food groups, including grains and fruits. These trendy food plans have instilled fear in people, making them think foods such as fruits, some vegetables and grains are bad. With the elimination or severe restriction of these foods, there is concern that people are missing out on key nutrients, including fiber.
What is the big deal in missing out on fiber, anyway? Well, this nutrient plays a large role in improving gut health. It helps prevent and relieve constipation, keeps you feeling fuller for longer periods of time, which in turn can help with weight loss/maintenance, helps decrease cholesterol levels and helps manage blood glucose levels.
There are two types of fiber, insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber helps move material through the digestive tract and helps increase the bulk of stool. This form of fiber is found in foods such as whole grains, nuts and vegetables, including green peas and sweet potatoes. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, dissolves in water which creates a gel-like material. This form helps decrease cholesterol and blood glucose levels. You can find soluble fiber in oats, legumes such as black beans and kidney beans, and fruit including pears and apricots.
The recommended amount of daily fiber intake is 38 grams for men age 50 or younger, and 30 grams for men age 51 and older. Women age 50 or younger need 25 grams while those who are 51 or older require 21 grams.
These requirements may seem high and leave you wondering how you will reach your goal each day. You can get creative, though, and use whole wheat flour instead of white flour in baked goods. Chia seeds can be added to your diet in recipes such as chia pudding; the internet has recipes galore. Making sure to eat the rainbow daily, by consuming produce in all different colors, is a great way to meet your fiber goal as well. For reference, 1 cup of raspberries provides about 2.5 grams of fiber, while a small potato contains 4 grams. Most fiber is found in the skin of fruits and vegetables, so make sure to eat it when you can to consume all the fiber your food offers. In addition, choose whole grain snacks, such as popcorn. This food has 4 grams per 3-cup serving. If you follow these tips, you are likely to meet your fiber goal, even though the amount of fiber in individual foods may seem trivial.
While getting your fiber intake from food is preferred, if you feel that getting fiber through food alone is a very difficult task, check your grocery store for fiber-containing supplements such as Metamucil. Be aware, though, that supplements can cause bloating and stomach discomfort. To avoid this, slowly add fiber supplements into your diet and drink lots of water.
The importance of fiber is just one example of why eating a varied diet with all different types of food is important. Do not fear foods like fruit, as the health benefits they provide are excellent. And with summer coming, stock up on your favorite produce and see how good you feel!