Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Though most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber cannot be broken down into sugar molecules, and instead it passes through the body undigested. Fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check.
Children and adults need at least 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day for good health, but most Americans get only about 15 grams a day. Great sources are whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans.
Fiber comes in two varieties, both beneficial to health:
Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can help lower glucose levels as well as help lower blood cholesterol. Foods with soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples and blueberries.
Insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, can help food move through your digestive system, promoting regularity and helping prevent constipation. Foods with insoluble fibers include wheat, whole wheat bread, whole grain couscous, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes.
The best sources of fiber are whole grain foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
Some tips for increasing fiber intake:
Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juices.
Replace white rice, bread, and pasta with brown rice and whole grain products.
For breakfast, choose cereals that have a whole grain as their first ingredient.
Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips, crackers, or chocolate bars.
Substitute beans or legumes for meat two to three times per week in chili and soups.