The Role of Fiber in Your Diet: Are You Consuming Enough?

     A recent news story in my area warned it's viewers of eating too much fiber. This was a 30 second story that really did not have a basis of why they were sharing the story, just warning folks that too much fiber in their diet could cause medical complications. While that is true, the truth is, is that Americans do not enough fiber-rich foods and that the US Food and Drug Administration has declared it an public health crisis.


     The meat and dairy council have done a really good job in brain washing the public into believing that they need to eat a diet high in protein. Not only is this not true, it has major health implications for Diabetics and the general public. Instead of a high protein diet, we need to be eating a high fiber diet. We should be consuming a wide variety of foods rich in fiber. Foods such as leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lentils, and legumes. In this article, I will share with you why a fiber-rich diet is important, how much you should consume and signs to look for if you are consuming too much or not enough fiber.


     Fiber falls into two categories; soluble and insoluble fiber. Each has very specific roles in our bodies, so it is important to eat a wide variety of fiber-rich foods to be sure you are consuming enough of each.


     Soluble fiber attracts water and turns it into gel during digestion. This s-l-o-w-s digestion, helping you feel full longer. Soluble fiber steadies blood glucose levels helping to avoid sugar spikes which is very important for Diabetics. Soluble fiber also carries dietary cholesterol out of the blood, lowering low-density lipid proteins, raising high-density lipid proteins and improving over-all triglyceride levels. Foods with soluble fiber include: oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables. It is also found in Psyllium, a common fiber supplement ingredient.


     Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool to help it pass more quickly. It prevents constipation and helps promote "good" gut bacteria. Foods with insoluble fiber include: wheat bran, whole grains such as whole grain wheat, quinoa, wild and brown rice and oatmeal. Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables include: dark leafy greens, green beans, artichokes, avocado, potatoes and carrots with the peel on, apricots, apples, berries, pineapple, and the list goes on!


     Now that you have some idea of what fiber does and where you can find it, let's look at how much you should be consuming daily and how much is too much. If you are a male, you should consume 30-38 grams a day. If you are a female, your goal should be 21-25 grams per day. If you are a diabetic, your goal should be 50 grams per day. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 70 grams of fiber a day is too much.


     If you are like most people, you probably don't know how much fiber you are consuming daily. One way is to begin a food journal and keep track of everything you eat for 5-7 days. This will give you a pretty good idea of your average consumption. You could opt to write everything down in a notebook and look at the labels of the foods you are eating to track intake or you can download a food journal app on your cell-phone. There are many free apps available.  I like the app because it will track your fat, sugar, carbohydrate and protein intake as well. If you find yourself falling short of your recommended dietary guidelines continue reading for ways to increase your Fiber intake.


Ways to Increase Your Fiber Intake:

  • Eat whole grains whenever possible
  • Eat beans/legumes 2-3 times per week
  • Choose breakfast cereals, breakfast bars, protein shakes that have a minimum of 3 grams or more per serving and no more than double the sugar in grams. Example is 5 grams fiber, 10 grams sugar.
  • Eat 7-9 servings fruit and vegetables Every. Single. Day. 8-10 servings if you are a diabetic.
  • Add 1 Tablespoon whole or ground Flax seed to your cereal, salads, soups, casseroles, or smoothies
  • Eat 1-2 handfuls of nuts. Be careful of salt and oil intake. Raw is best!

     Signs that you are not consuming enough fiber in your diet is constipation (fewer than three bowel movements a week), weight gain, diet related nausea and fatigue. Eating a diet mostly consisting of meats, eggs and cheese can leave you feeling nauseated, sluggish and tired! Not eating enough fiber can cause problems regulating blood-sugar levels, which is very important for diabetics and a top contributor to causing diabetes. Eating too much fiber too quickly can cause bloating, gas and cramps so be sure to add it into your diet slowly. Try adding 1-2 more grams per week until you are eating your recommended allowance.


     Eat too much fiber (70 grams/day) can cause intestinal blockage, loss of appetite, constipation, and nutrient deficiencies by blocking the absorption of calcium, magnesium and zinc. Many also complain of bloating and gas.


     Eating a fiber-rich diet comes with many health benefits, such as, helping you lose weight (these foods are high in nutrients and low in calories), improve cardio-vascular health, reduces risks associated with diabetes, and reduces the risk of Colon Cancer. To be sure you are getting enough fiber and a variety of both soluble and insoluble fiber, eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and lentils and drink plenty of water every day.


~ Sonda Swanberg, MCHC, Owner Invincible Health and Wellness