Dietary fiber is essential to healthy digestion. Knowing the best source and what type of fiber you should buy will help keep your digestive system healthy and lower your blood cholesterol levels. Fiber is also known to aid in weight loss and can possible reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. Learn the types of fiber you should consume and your best sources of fiber before you go out and make your purchase.
Dietary fiber is made up of carbohydrates from the lower glycemic index group. The human digestive system lacks enzymes able to break down the chemicals found in the bulk of plants, making the material pass through our system virtually intact. This means you are unable to metabolize the glucose for energy, thus the calories do not count toward part of your diet.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. This type of fiber supports movement of waste through your digestive system by absorbing 2 times its own weight in water. This keeps your stools soft and able to move through your intestines easily. It is great for those who suffer constipation or irregular stools. Natural sources of insoluble fiber are mainly found in the leaves, peels and skins of plants, as well as the coverings of whole grains. Find insoluble fiber in whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables, and fruits.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gelatinous material when mixed with your food. This slows your rate of glucose digestion, allowing your body to uptake more nutrients into the bloodstream. Great natural sources of soluble fiber can be found in oats, apples, citrus, peas, barley, carrots, and psyllium.
Best Natural Sources of Fiber
Psyllium husk is by far the highest source of fiber you can find. High fibers cereals including wheat bran and All Bran are another great source. Kidney beans, chickpeas, lima beans, and navy beans top the charts for legumes. Apples, prunes, and bananas are your best source from fruit. If you want fiber from veggies, reach for broccoli, yams, sweet potatoes and spinach.
Sometimes a good fiber supplement can help make up for the lack of fiber in your diet. Most fiber supplements are gluten free, and you can find many that have no added sugar. Find a fiber supplement that has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. Konsyl and Acacia fiber have your highest source when it comes to supplements. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, try a psyllium-free source like Acacia fiber.
Fiber supplements come in several forms, including dissolvable drink mixes, tablets, capsules and wafers. Many leading brands offer small single serving packets that you can throw in your purse on your way out the door.
Knowing how much fiber you need each day isn’t an exact science. On average, a healthy woman needs around 25 grams of fiber per day. However, your intestine do provide you with great signs of fiber needs. Indicators that you are not getting enough fiber include:
- infrequent stools
- Hard stools
- Feeling of sluggish bowels
- Abdominal pain
Sometimes you may eat too much fiber. These are signs of fiber overload:
- Excess gas
- Abdominal pain
- Large, frequent stools that are uncomfortable