Understanding the Big Picture of a High-Fiber Diet
Usually at some point in our lives, whether asked during a routine physical exam or some other health event, the subject of following a high-fiber diet might come into the picture. Sure, eating the occasional bowl of bran cereal is a great small step in promoting digestive health. But to really understand why high-fiber diets are so important to health and general well being, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the fundamentals.
High-Fiber Diets in a Nutshell
Dietary fiber consists of plant-based foods, such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains and legumes that the body cannot absorb or break down. These powerhouse foods help you maintain a healthy weight and promote good digestive health by providing two types of fiber the digestive tract needs for optimal functioning:
Insoluble fiber foods remain mostly intact throughout the digestive tract, and therefore promote the movement of waste material through the stomach, intestine and colon, until it is expelled from the body. Benefits of consuming this type of fiber include prevention of constipation, as well as possibly reducing the risk of certain types of cancer. Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains, cereals, and fruits and vegetables that are eaten skin-on (think apples, peaches, and corn).
Just as important to digestive health is soluble fiber. This type of fiber absorbs water as it passes through the digestive system, bulking up waste material to help prevent constipation and diarrhea. Consuming soluble fiber can reduce cholesterol, as well as prevent blood sugar spikes. Oats, thin-skinned fruits and vegetables (think strawberries and baby peas) are examples of foods offering soluble fiber.
Just How Much Fiber Is Enough?
Now that you know what fiber is and what foods to incorporate into your diet, it’s important to understand how much you need on a daily basis. According to mayoclinic.org, the daily recommendation for adult males age 50 or younger is 38 grams. For adult males age 51 or older, the recommendation is 30 grams of fiber per day. For adult females age 50 or younger, 25 grams of fiber is a good goal. For adult females age 51 or older, 21 grams is sufficient.
Adding Up Dietary Fiber and Its Benefits
Reading nutrition labels on packaged foods is a great way to start to understand how many grams of dietary fiber certain foods contribute to daily intake goals. It’s best to slowly introduce increased amounts of fiber into your diet to allow the digestive system to adjust. Consult your doctor when you have additional questions about the digestive health benefits of a high fiber diet. Most importantly, have fun trying a variety of foods that add up to great high fiber health!
– Spring Ridge Surgical Specialists