What exactly is fiber and why is it so good for you? You’ve probably been grocery shopping and noticed shelves full of products boasting high levels of fiber–probably various breakfast cereals, snack foods, and breads. But unless you’re on a diet that requires you to eat fiber-rich foods, it’s safe to assume that you usually ignore the hundreds of fiber-enhanced products and instead opt for your usual choice of cereal or bread. However, you may not know that fiber offers a number of health benefits and is an important addition to a well-balanced diet.
Fiber helps the body in many different ways. It contributes to your bowel health, protecting against colorectal cancer and other colon diseases, and it reduces your risk of constipation. It can also lower cholesterol levels and reduce blood pressure and inflammation. Additionally, eating a diet high in fiber can help you control blood sugar levels and decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Lastly, fiber has been found to extend your overall lifespan, contributing to a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a number of cancers.
So what should you eat to boost your fiber intake? Besides food products labeled “fiber-rich” and “high in fiber,” there are many different foods you can eat that add fiber to your diet. Some examples of foods high in fiber include various fruits, such as apples, strawberries, bananas, and oranges; vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, potatoes, corn, and carrots; whole grains such as whole-grain pasta, bran flakes, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice; and nuts, which include peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and pistachios. Try to avoid processed foods like canned fruits or vegetables and white breads and pastas, all of which are low in fiber.
Another way to include fiber in your diet is via supplements. Although they don’t have the same benefits as natural dietary fiber, supplements can introduce a limited amount of fiber into your body. Some examples of fiber supplements include Metamucil, Citrucel, and FiberCon, and can be found at your local health store.
If you’re convinced that you need to eat more fiber after reading the above, you may not be sure where to start. One easy way to begin your new diet is by eating a lot of high-fiber vegetables–and eating them before the rest of your meal. Vegetables are low in calories and don’t fill you up, but if you save them for the end of your meal, you’ll probably eat fewer of them. An even easier method of increasing your fiber intake is by snacking on popcorn, which is surprisingly rich in fiber. Try buying a few bags of fiber-rich almonds or peanuts as well.
Once you’ve started eating a fiber-rich diet, you’ll reap the benefits of the nutrient in no time.