March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that eating a fiber-rich diet has been associated with decreased colorectal cancer risk and recurrence? Not only are diets plentiful in dietary fiber associated with a reduced risk for colorectal cancer, they have been shown to lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, promote bowel regularity, and weight loss. Keep reading to find out more about the role of dietary fiber in the diet and how to get more fiber in your life.
There are two types of fiber found in foods: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
Soluble Fiber dissolves in water and forms a “gel.” Soluble fiber aids in reducing cholesterol, lowering blood sugar, and getting rid of other toxins present in the gastrointestinal tract. Examples of foods that contain soluble fiber include oats, beans, legumes, sweet potatoes, onions, and fruits such as apples, bananas, and pears. The daily goal for soluble fiber intake is 10-20 grams.
Insoluble Fiber increases fecal bulk and promotes movement of food through the digestive system, promoting bowel regularity and discourages the development of hemorrhoids. Examples of insoluble fiber include wheat bran, nuts, and seeds. The daily goal for insoluble fiber intake is 15-30 grams.
Most plant foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, however, the amount of each type varies in different foods. Total daily fiber intake of soluble and insoluble combined should be at least 30-35 grams.
Here are some tips and suggestions for increasing dietary fiber:
- Add fruits and veggies.
- Aim to have a fruit or vegetable with each meal or snack. Veggies and fruits and full of dietary fiber.
- Choose the whole fruit instead of juice.
- Eat the skins and seeds for extra fiber.
- Be selective when choosing grains.
- Choose grain products that are marked with the disclaimer that they are “100% whole grain.” Whole grains contain more fiber than refined, processed grains like white flour and white rice.
- Look for “whole wheat flour” or “whole grain flour” as the first ingredient on the package label when selecting bread and bread products.
- Try buying whole grains in bulk form that are unprocessed. These are usually found in the bulk bins or barrels in the bulk section of the grocery store.
- Incorporate beans, peas, and lentils regularly into your diet.
- Beans, peas, and lentils are fiber-rich, and are an excellent substitute for meat since they are a great source of protein.
- Add beans as well as other gas forming foods gradually to allow the gastrointestinal tract to adjust and to avoid bloating or discomfort.
- Soak dried beans or rinse canned beans before cooking to help remove some of the gas-producing starches.
- Use whole wheat flour in recipes that call for white flour.
- Substituting half whole wheat flour will increase fiber content in baked items (keep in mind that making this change may change the texture of some recipes).
- Try using whole wheat breadcrumbs or whole wheat flour for breading.
- Start each day with a high fiber breakfast.
- Choose a breakfast cereal that contains at least 5 grams of fiber and no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving.
- Cereals may contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Oatmeal contains only soluble fiber.
- Add fresh fruit instead of juice to your breakfast to get the added benefit of fiber.
- Add a salad to at least one meal each day.
- Use a variety of leafy greens including spinach and romaine.
- Be creative and top the greens with other high fiber foods including broccoli, beans, raspberries, beets, cucumbers, and celery.
- Increase water intake while increasing fiber intake.
- For fiber to function optimally, additional water is required.
- Healthy people need to drink at least 8 8-ounce glasses of water per day when increasing fiber intake.
- If not enough water is consumed when increasing fiber intake, constipation can result.
|Blog Author: Katherine T. Fowler, MS, RDN, CEDRD, LDN|