More than 60 percent of the people in the Western world lack adequate fiber in their meals, leading to multiple chronic conditions. Particularly vulnerable are children, older adults, people trying to lose weight, people who are on a restricted grain diet, and those who eat out frequently.
On the other hand, people with low rates of chronic disease consume at least 40 to 50 grams of fiber daily.
What is fiber?
Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that you cannot get from eating fish, chicken, meat, and dairy products.
There are several types of fibers in food: soluble, insoluble, and those that are resistant starch. All play important and different roles in our well-being, so it’s important to get a mix by eating a variety of unrefined plant foods. If your plate is mostly covered with steak or refined starchy foods like white bread and white rice, your bowels may not work every day. This is a telltale sign that your diet is lacking fiber, and health problems are likely on their way.
Why you need it every day
Foods that are rich in fiber can help to prevent or better manage many medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and bowel pressure disorders such as hemorrhoids and diverticular disease. Fiber is also fermented in your colon to produce short chain fatty acids that help guard your insides from cancer.
Getting enough fiber is more than just adding bran to your cereal. By including unrefined plant foods, you also obtain a number of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that will fight disease.
Five tips for getting enough
- Base at least three to four main meals a week on beans, peas, and lentils.
- Replace white rice and refined starchy foods with brown rice, whole-meal pasta, barley, bulgur, polenta, and other whole grains.
- Choose high-fiber breakfast cereals, and top them with ground linseeds or chia seeds, dried fruit, and psyllium.
- Eat high-fiber breads such as soy and linseed, pumpernickel, wholegrain rye, or whole-meal sourdough.
- Include at least two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables in your meals every day. Eat the skin wherever possible.
Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and coauthor of Eat To Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve well-being. See www.sueradd.com for more nutrition information.