Why Fiber?

by NatureBox Nutritionist Kat Brown, MS RD RYT

You’ve probably heard that a high fiber diet is associated with less risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and helping to maintain a healthy intestinal tract. But did you know that most Americans get less than half of the average recommended 20-40 grams of fiber per day? 20-40 grams may sound like a ton but when you choose nutrient dense foods such as fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes and whole grains more often, fiber can add up quickly.

There are 2 types of fiber- soluble and insoluble.

Insoluble fiber is found in whole grain foods, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables. It helps to keep you regular by adding bulk to the stool.

Soluble fiber is found in oats, legumes, chia seeds, and nuts. It acts like a sponge in your intestines, helping to decrease cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar.

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So how do we get enough fiber in each day? Let’s review some naturally nutrient dense and fiber rich foods and how to include them. 

  • Beans, yes good for your heart- Delicious hot or cold, protein packed, filling and inexpensive, no wonder beans are a cornerstone of many cultural eating patterns. Try a vegetarian chili with black beans or kidney beans. Hummus, made from garbanzo beans, is delicious as a dip or a spread on sandwiches. Cold beans are a delicious addition to salads. 
  • Raspberries have 8 grams of fiber per cup! All berries are naturally high in fiber, and a tasty addition to yogurt, cereal, salads or just enjoyed on their own.
  • While any nut or seed is a nutrient dense choice, almonds and sunflower seeds are the highest fiber nuts and seeds. There are endless options here-enjoy them in a trail mix, tossed into breakfast cereal (hot or cold), or as a topping for salad or ice cream. 
  • Whole grain foods are an excellent source of fiber. Do some label sleuthing to ensure that you’re getting a whole grain product- whole wheat or whole oats should be the first ingredient. And don’t be bashful to try the host of whole grain products out there- they’ve come a long way with palatability in recent years. Whole grain pastas, breads, cereals and wraps can be a staple of a high fiber diet.

One final note- beware of fibers added to products during processing- such as inulin, maltodextrin, and polydextrose. These fibers are often added to make a processed product look “healthier” because health conscious consumers are looking to increase their fiber intake. These fibers aren’t proven to be as beneficial as naturally occurring fibers, and a processed food with these isolated fibers added will not be as nutritious as a whole food with natural fiber.

So don’t be afraid of adding in a little extra fiber, your heart will thank you!  

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Kat Brown MS RD RYT is a San Francisco Bay Area based Registered Dietitian and Yoga Teacher. As a nutrition counselor, writer, cook, and yogini she seeks to inspire others to nourish themselves and live balanced, fulfilled lives.