Making healthy choices can be difficult and confusing. I talk with people each day about strategies for leading healthier lives. Many are making a sincere effort to make positive changes, but they are not sure if the approach they are taking will work long term. Whether someone is looking to lose weight, manage diabetes, lower cholesterol or simply stay healthy long term, I’ve found one simple strategy that can help. I am not claiming that this will lead to a huge weight loss or guarantee blood glucose control or very low cholesterol, but there is substantial research to support the benefit of this substance.
What am I referring to? Fiber
Why Fiber? It is elegant. Fiber is found in food that comes from plants. It is a type of carbohydrate that our bodies cannot digest. Hence, it does not get digested into glucose nor does it provide any calories. But, it provides several other benefits.
There are actually two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. It helps slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream from the digestive tract (helping keep blood glucose down). It also binds to LDL (bad) cholesterol, lowering its concentration in the body.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. But, it helps keep food and, eventually, waste moving through your digestive tract smoothly, which may help you lower risk of colon cancer long term.
Good sources of soluble fiber include: beans (legumes), whole grains (such as oats), lentils, apples, blueberries, and more.
Good sources of insoluble fiber include: whole wheat products, brown rice, legumes, vegetables, and more.
These foods also have many other nutrients, including: vitamin A, folate, magnesium, potassium, iron, and antioxidants that have been shown to lower risk of disease.
Foods that contain little to no fiber, include meats, cheeses, most fast food, processed carbohydrates, juices, chips, and candies. These are also the foods that we tend to recommend you limit.
Most experts recommend that we eat at least 25 grams of fiber a day. Sadly, most Americans fall far short of that threshold, only eating about 14 grams of fiber a day.
But, if we aimed for reaching at least 25 grams of fiber a day, we would be consuming more fruits and vegetables, more legumes, more nuts and seeds, and more whole grains. These higher fiber foods would displace more processed foods and foods that are higher in fat, particularly saturated fat. We would eat more vitamins and minerals. We would eat less calories. We would get more antioxidants. We would eat more sodium and less potassium. We would get a lot more bang for our buck!
So, if you are looking for a simple way to better health, count your intake of fiber. It is an uncomplicated approach to wellness.