High Fiber DietBy: Bob's Red Mill | December 15 2017
Fiber is one of those trendy, yummy-sounding ingredients that we are all so excited to eat, right? Wrong? Okay, so maybe fiber is not the sexiest nutrient around, but it is surprisingly helpful for almost every system within your body. No matter your age, sex, or weight, you probably should be working on your fiber intake, as most Americans do not consume quite enough. If you are considering a higher fiber diet, wondering how to get more fiber, or simply wondering why on earth anyone would eat more fiber, you have come to the right place. We have collected a ton of information on how--and most importantly, why--to eat a high fiber diet, so you can enjoy all the benefits that fiber brings to the table. You will definitely be more attracted to fiber after you realize all the great things it can do for your body!
What Is Fiber?
This part is not so exciting, but it is important to understand what fiber is in order to figure why it is so good for you and how to consume more of it every day. The official definition of fiber is that it is “the indigestible part of plant food that travels through our digestive system.” In simpler terms, this means that fiber is anything in your meal that does not get fully digested and broken down into your body. Instead, it is almost entirely . . . well, disposed of, to put it politely. My first thought on reading that was, “So why do we need something that does not even get digested?” and I am sure you are wondering the same thing. The purpose of fiber, even though it is not digested, is to help all the other foods that do absorb get through your body as smoothly as possible. You can think of fiber as kind of a transport mechanism for the rest of your nutrients, so if the fiber is not working then the rest of your food can get stuck.
Fiber is categorized into different groups—soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is called soluble because it dissolves in water and then forms into a gelatin-type consistency as it goes through the digestive system. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, remains solid the entire way through your digestive system. Soluble fiber attaches to cholesterol on the way out of your body, which can actually help lower your bad cholesterol and your risk of heart disease. It typically does not allow your food to absorb quite as much as other foods, so foods high in soluble fiber (such as oats, peas, beans, carrots, and apples) do not have as many calories as some other foods. Insoluble fiber, found in foods like green beans, wheat bread, and cauliflower, helps you feel more full after your meal so that you do not feel the need to eat as much later. It is the fiber that really keeps your digestive system running smoothly, which leads to an overall more pleasant experience for you.
Why Go High Fiber?
In addition to the fact that it barely absorbs into your body, fiber provides tons of benefits for your health. You can think of it as almost a natural detox because it helps wash away any toxins or bad stuff from your body. No need for a juice cleanse when you have a high fiber diet! According to many scientific studies, those with high fiber intake in their diets tend to live longer and be more generally healthy than those who do not consume as much daily fiber.
Fiber also can assist with weight loss by ensuring that your digestive system is running smoothly and helping you stay full all day. A lot of high fiber foods are lower in calories, as well as nutrient-rich, so you they help you feel like you have had plenty to eat so you can avoid snacking, while not adding much to your daily caloric intake. It also seems to help you maintain a healthier weight. If you are looking for a healthy diet to help you lose weight and keep it off, then fiber is definitely the right move for you!
If you have trouble with your skin, more fiber may be the solution! By correcting any issues with your digestive system, you can avoid breakouts--yes, in fact, an upset digestive system is one of the top reasons for breakouts. Fiber also helps flush out any yeasts or bacteria that could have led to eventual breakouts.
In addition to assisting with better skin and weight loss, fiber can help with bone density as well. Basically, a high fiber diet helps all nutrients become more available for absorption, so the calcium in your foods is absorbed more quickly. Studies have shown correlations between fiber and lower risk for osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, general inflammation, and even some types of cancer. All in all, a high fiber diet will not disappoint when it comes to your health!
How to Get More Fiber
It may be tempting to get your fiber from a supplement, and we do not blame you--taking a pill is way easier than paying attention to what you are eating and counting grams. However, the beauty of fibrous foods is that they are full of other nutrients and the fiber itself helps those nutrients get absorbed more effectively. For this reason, supplements are much less effective in this realm than actual whole fiber-rich foods.
Speaking of foods, which foods are highest in fiber? Grains like oatmeal and other cereals are a great source of natural fibers! We have a whole section of high-fiber products. In general, whole grains are much higher in fiber than refined or processed grains. Substitute white bread with whole grain bread whenever possible, and make sure your cereals contain words like “bran” or “fiber” in them to ensure you are getting the most out of your morning. Fruits and vegetables are generally good sources of fiber as well, so enjoy five or more servings every day--this is good for a ton of other reasons outside of fiber too! Legumes are another great source of fiber; use beans or lentils as a base for your dishes instead of rice or pasta (unless it is whole grain pasta, of course). We have an entire section of Bob’s Red Mill-tested recipes that are high in fiber that you can try out and let us know which ones are our favorites! One of the toughest parts of any diet is snack time! If you are looking for more fiber, try dried fruits or nuts. These can be high in calories, but they are delicious and will help you feel full until your next big meal.
Do Not Go Overboard
Despite how amazing fiber can be for your diet, it is possible to get too much fiber. Most Americans simply do not get enough, so you likely will not have this issue. However, if you are getting significantly more than the recommended value (as a reminder, this is about 35 grams for men and 25 grams for women), then you may start to experience symptoms like stomach cramps, constipation, or even nutritional deficiencies, which is not the goal here. Too much fiber can make your system eject nutrients before they are properly digested and absorbed, so you will not be getting the benefits of your healthy diet!
If you want to increase your fiber intake, experts recommend increasing slowly, especially if you currently only consume a small amount of fiber. This way your system can get used to it more gradually. Also, spread out your fiber throughout the day, so you are not getting a huge influx all at once, and stay extra hydrated when you start increasing your fiber. The more liquids (especially water) that you drink, the more comfortable you will be with your new high fiber diet! If you follow these simple steps to increase your fiber intake, then you will be at full-fiber count in no time!
Is fiber sounding a little sexier now that you have learned more about it? I thought so! The truth is that fiber is very different than many other healthy nutrients we talk about every day, and thus you cannot really replicate the health benefits it gives you with any other product. Countless studies have been done linking fiber to benefits such as lower disease, weight loss, and general health improvement. We highly recommend indulging in some delicious whole grains as a good way to up your dietary fiber intake, and we can never get enough fruits and veggies in the mix, which are great high fiber options as well! Check out our high fiber recipe selection and let us know which ones you try, and which ones you love the best!