I can’t say enough good things about fiber. Eating a diet high in fiber can help regulate your digestion (regardless of whether you tend toward loose stool or constipation), lower your cholesterol, help you lose weight, and reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease. I make sure to eat as much fiber as I can in my diet, and I can attest that adding fiber to your day is easy, inexpensive and delicious.
Justin asked us on Twitter how he can get more fiber in his diet:
Fiber comes from parts of plant-derived foods that your body does not digest or absorb. It travels almost unchanged through your entire digestive system, doing a lot of good along the way. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is great for lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Foods like apples, oats, peas, beans, citrus foods, carrots and psyllium contain healthy servings of soluble fiber. They help lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol that is a major contributor toward heart disease by decreasing absorption of dietary cholesterol.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, but it attracts water. It adds bulk to stool, helping to slow down fast-moving, liquid stools. It also speeds up and softens stool that is too hard and dry to pass easily through the colon and rectum. Whole-grain breads and foods are good to increase soluble fiber, as are nuts, beans and vegetables including cauliflower and green beans.
These are absolutely great foods for your colon. Diets high in fiber may help prevent hemorrhoids and diverticular disease (pouches that form in the colon’s wall and may cause bleeding or infection). Some evidence suggests that high-fiber diets may also help prevent colon cancer.
All the above foods (and more – check out this list of 50 fiber-rich foods that you can print and bring with you to the store) can help you up your fiber intake. There are also supplements such as psyllium or wheat dextrin that you can purchase and mix into food or drink to give you a mega fiber boost. Most of these come in flavored and tasteless varieties and some come in discreet travel-size packets or as crackers or cookies.
Whether it’s from fiber supplements or your diet (or both), try to get at least 25-35 grams of fiber a day. Some people who suddenly add fiber to their diets might notice an increase in flatulence, but stick with it – this usually goes away after your body adjusts to the new fiber load. And some people’s bodies may prefer one type of fiber supplement or source over another – experiment to find the best fiber for you.