High fiber foods can be helpful for blood sugar control, which we know can have an anti-inflammatory effect. Food high in fiber allow the gradual release insulin, which results in smaller levels of glucose being stored in the blood at any one time. In addition a 2012 study in Kidney International, (as well as many others) has found that high dietary total fiber intake is associated with a lower risk of chronic inflammation.
Fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate that that is found only in plants and is frequently referred to as “roughage.” It is the indigestible part of plant foods. Unlike other carbohydrates the body does not digest or absorb fiber entirely so it contributes very few calories. Because of this, fiber is not considered a nutrient. However you can still find it listed on food nutrient labels to help you choose fiber-rich foods.
There are two type of dietary fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Both types benefit the body in many ways from promoting regularity, to preventing constipation, to decreasing the risk of colon cancer as well as other types of cancer. In addition, fiber helps to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, reduce the risk for heart disease, and regulate blood sugar levels, all of which are associated with chronic inflammation. As if that were not enough, high fiber foods can also help you feel fuller longer after you eat, which in turn can help you from nibbling when you shouldn’t. And let’s face it, fewer calories means weight loss, and a healthy body weight means less chance of inflammation.
Even though fiber is not truly considered a nutrient, it is still a very important part of a well-balanced diet. Fiber can be found in loads of healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, legumes/beans, oatmeal, whole grains, soy foods, lentils, nuts, and seeds. As long as you stick close to the recommended servings of fruits, veggies, and whole grains, and often throw in some legumes/beans , nuts and seeds, you should be able to meet your requirements.
Switching from refined grains to whole grains and adding more plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds is a great way to fill up on fiber. Adult women under 50 years of age need 35 grams of fiber daily and men under 50 need 38 grams. As you ramp up your fiber intake drink plenty of water. This can help alleviate some of the side effects and keep the fiber moving smoothly through the digestive tract.
5 Tips to increase your fiber intake:
- Start your day with a bowl of whole grain cereal, either hot or cold and top it with sliced fresh fruit.
- Add barley, beans, lentils and split peas to salads, soups, casseroles and stews.
- Do not overcook vegetables, instead lightly steam them to keep the fiber intact.
- Add nuts or low fat granola to your favorite yogurt.
- Leave the skin or peel on fruits and vegetables when possible and wash them thoroughly before eating. Most of the fiber found in fruits and vegetables are in and around the skin.
The market is loaded with fiber supplements. To get all of the benefits that fiber provides, don’t take the easy way out. Whole foods provide more fiber as well as added essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients that are necessary for optimal health. Never replace whole foods or any food group with a simple single supplement. Use fiber supplements as they are intended, to supplement your fiber intake and not to take the place of high fiber foods.