Howdy, ya’ll! Today we’re going to talk fiber! Now, I know, fiber may not seem that sexy, but, let me tell you something: It is. Fiber is damn sexy. Why? Because not only is it a way to love your digestive tract and keep you feeling full, which helps to maintain your weight, but it’s also super important for heart health. So seeing that it’s both Love Yo’Self Week in FBG land and Heart Health Month, we decided to hit up Keri Glassman, nutrition expert and author of The New You and Improved Diet, for why fiber rocks and how you can get more of it in your life (minus the gas—you know we had to go there!). Keri’s been doing some work with Konsyl, an all-natural psyllium fiber supplement, so she knows all the fiber facts!
A Fiber-Facts Q&A With Keri Glassman
1. What are a few of the reasons why fiber is important in your diet? Dietary fiber is the part of plant foods that your body cannot digest. Fiber is classified into two categories: the kind that does not dissolve in water (insoluble fiber) and the type that does (soluble fiber). Soluble fiber retains water and turns to a gel-like consistency during digestion; therefore, slowing the process of digestion as well as the absorption of nutrients. This is why you feel full for a longer period of time after consuming a high-fiber meal versus a fiber-less one. Soluble fiber also helps to lower blood cholesterol and sugar levels. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, helps to speed the passage of foods through the gastrointestinal tract and adds bulk to stool. It is best known for managing body weight, preventing constipation and reducing the risk of colon cancer.
2. How does fiber help lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease? Soluble fiber helps to lower blood cho
lesterol by interfering with the absorption of bile in the intestine. When bile isn’t absorbed, it needs to leave the body somehow and is therefore excreted via the feces. To make up for the lack of bile in the body, the liver uses cholesterol (from LDLs) to make bile salts. The more bile salts are made from the liver, the more LDL cholesterol is pulled from the blood. This process of bile salt synthesis and cholesterol extraction helps keep cholesterol out of the bloodstream, which ultimately may prevent heart disease.
Research has shown that increasing soluble fiber by 5 to 10 grams a day reduces LDL cholesterol by about five percent. Oat bran and oatmeal, as well as psyllium and barley, are rich in beta-glucan, a soluble form of fiber, which has been proven to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
3. What are three ways people can get more fiber in their diets (and how much is ideal in a day)? We can get plenty of fiber from a diet rich in whole, natural foods, like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and nuts and seeds. Most foods contain a mixture of both soluble and insoluble fiber, but some foods are particularly high in one type of fiber over the other. Foods that are high in soluble fiber include oatmeal, flaxseeds, oat bran and beans. Zucchini, celery, broccoli and dark leafy vegetables are some examples of foods higher in insoluble fiber.
While I prefer to have you eat food and not numbers, you should know how much fiber you need, so you can be aware if you’re getting the right amount. Men need about 30 to 38 grams per day and women need about 21 to 25 grams.
- Psyllium: Psyllium comes already ground and is loaded with soluble fiber. Add a few teaspoons of this to smoothies or hot cereals for a fiber boost. One package (6 grams) of Konsyl Psyllium Fiber contains 6 grams of total fiber (3 grams of soluble fiber).
- Beans: Beans are versatile and affordable. Add black or pinto beans to your salad, puree white beans into a dip for veggies or fruit, or go old-school and serve them with roast chicken and a salad. Beans are packed with fiber and countless other nutrients.
- Fresh vegetables: Did I already mention veggies? Can’t say it enough! As if I actually need another reason why it’s so important to get your vegetables in every day, the insoluble fiber in plant cells speeds up the passage of food and waste through your gut, leaving you with a clean and healthy functioning GI!
4. What are a few of your favorite lesser known high-fiber foods?
- Artichokes: Artichokes are one of my favorite foods, period. They’re great on salads, in omelets or alone as a snack! These veggies are flavorful, low in calories, and they’re loaded with fiber. A medium artichoke has 10 grams of fiber.
- Almonds: 3.5 grams per ¼ cup serving—and you thought they just satisfied a crunchy craving?
- Berries: You can add them to your cereal or eat them as dessert. One cup of raspberries gives you 8 grams of fiber and only 60 calories! Other berries like blueberries have 4 grams of fiber per ¾ cup, or strawberries have 6 grams of fiber per 1 1/4 cup.
5. Fiber is known for making you, well, gassy. Any tips to get around this? If you haven’t been consuming a fiber-rich diet, don’t start all at once! Lots of fiber can get things moving and make you uncomfy doing so. Instead, gradually incorporate fiber into your diet and build up to meet your total needs. Start with 3 grams at time and add 3 every few days. With time, your digestive system should adapt, and gas should decrease.
A hearty thanks to Keri for these healthy fiber facts! What’s your favorite way to fiber it up? And be sure to come back tomorrow for Keri’s high-fiber Barley Breakfast Salad recipe! —Jenn