Diet & Exercise: Types of fiber necessary for a healthy diet

Published 4:00 pm Thursday, December 14, 2017

As a nutritionist, it’s not only my job to make sure my clients make progress, but to educate them on how to stay healthy as well.

One part of a healthy diet I teach them about is fiber. Just what is fiber, and why do we need it?

Dietary fiber is also known as roughage. It includes all parts of plant stuffs that our bodies can’t digest. Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are all broken down and absorbed by the body. Fiber remains intact as it passes from the stomach, through the small and large intestines.

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Fiber is usually put into one of two categories. Soluble fiber dissolves in water while insoluble fiber does not.

Soluble fiber becomes gel-like once it absorbs water. This type of fiber is found in apples, barley, peas, carrots, citrus fruits, oats, pears, plums, black beans, navy beans, northern, and pinto beans, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Soluble fiber helps lower blood glucose, and cholesterol levels. Lowered blood glucose levels help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Lower cholesterol levels help reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Insoluble fiber creates “bulk,” and helps movement of materials through the digestive system. It is beneficial to those who battle with constipation. This type of fiber is found in nuts, wheat bran, whole wheat flour, corn bran, green beans, potatoes with the skins, legumes, and cauliflower. As a rule, vegetables have more insoluble fiber, and fruits have more soluble fiber.

High fiber foods can aid in weight loss too. Fiber helps you feel fuller longer, so you don’t feel the need to eat so much. Also, high fiber foods are less energy-dense, which means you consume fewer calories.

On a nutritional profile there are three types of carbohydrates listed. They are sugars or simple sugars, other sugars or complex sugars, and fiber. Even though fiber is listed on nutritional labels as a carbohydrate, it doesn’t act as one, because it never leaves the GI tract. For this reason, you would subtract the number of fiber grams from your total carbohydrate intake.

So, just how much fiber do we need? I recommend my clients get between 25-35 grams of fiber a day. Be careful though. Increase your fiber intake slowly. This will help prevent bloating and cramping. Also, make sure your water intake increases, as you increase your fiber.

There are still a few days to sign up for a free one-on-one nutritional/fitness consultation. As long as you sign up by the end of the year I’ll put you on the list. The response is always great. Just contact me through my email. I promise I’ll do my best to get to everyone, and thanks.

Fitness or nutrition question? Email me at David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 29 years.