The Spotlight On… column by Joann DiFabio-Klinkner highlights a particular type of food, healthy or not. Joann educates us about the nutritional value of foods to help us make the healthiest choices we can. Read and learn about these foods so you can continue to feed your body the proper energy to achieve a balanced healthy diet. Over the next few months we’ve partnered with Mediterranean Snacks® to join them on their mission to educate, engage and influence consumers to continue to make healthier choices when it comes to the foods and snacks they eat.
Surely you’ve been told in your life to eat more fiber in order to stay more “regular”. It’s a pretty well known fact that fiber and intestinal regularity go hand in hand. But do you know why fiber is so good for you?
We should first begin with an explanation of dietary fiber. Commonly called roughage, dietary fiber is all the parts of a plant that are not digested or absorbed by the body. Yes, that’s right. Fiber is NOT absorbed or digested by the body. It basically passes through the stomach, through the intestinal system, through the colon, and out of the body. Imagine that! Something that your body does not absorb is actually GOOD for you!
Dietary fiber is classified into two types: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and basically forms a gel-like material that essentially slows down digestion. This type of fiber is great for people who are trying to lose weight because it keeps you feeling fuller for a longer amount of time. Soluble fiber may also help control diabetes because a slower digestion rate can keep blood sugar levels down and decrease insulin sensitivity. This type of fiber can also help lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels by disrupting the absorption of dietary cholesterol. Soluble fiber is found in foods such as oats, peas, beans/legumes, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, cucumbers, and barley.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. This is the type of fiber that promotes regularity of the bowels by increasing stool bulk and promoting the movement of material through the intestinal tract. Insoluble fiber is particularly helpful to those who suffer from irregularity or constipation. Since it does not dissolve in water and basically passes straight through your digestive system, it encourages things to “keep moving” through your gut. Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as whole wheat, potatoes, nuts, beans, cauliflower, green beans, zucchini, grapes, broccoli, and cabbage.
So how much fiber do you need? Most people get around 15 grams of fiber per day in their diet, which is not enough. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, teenage girls and women under the age of 50 should be getting about 25 grams of fiber per day. That number increases to 30 to 38 grams of fiber per day for teenage boys and men under the age of 50 (who consume more calories on a daily basis than women of the same age).
Some foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, thus boosting their good-for-you quotient. Foods such as beans and legumes pack a one-two fiber punch and should be a staple in any healthy diet. As you increase fiber in your diet, you may notice and increase in gas. This is normal, and can be controlled by gradually increasing your daily fiber intake until your body gets adjusted. Since soluble fiber absorbs water, it is also suggested that you drink more water when introducing more soluble fiber into your diet.
If you feel like you need to increase fiber in your diet, just beware of all the processed snack foods lining the grocery store shelves that boast huge amounts of fiber. Not all fiber is created equal like Mediterranean Snacks® because of their natural fiber from the legumes. The fiber that some of these snack foods contain are processed and often don’t have the same bulk or gel-like texture as naturally sourced fiber like inulin, so it doesn’t slow digestion or lower cholesterol like natural fiber.
When trying to incorporate more fiber into your diet, try to get it from natural sources, or look for healthier snack options that source their fiber from nature, such as bean flours and whole grains. I highly recommend Mediterranean Snacks®, Baked Lentil Chips as they provide a good source of natural fiber and protein. Give the Cucumber Dill a try as it’s one of my favorites!
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