An Apple a Day – What’s Up With Fiber?

Find out how soluble dietary fiber affects your body and why you need it.

by Jen Davis

Today’s feature tackles a subject that is often times confusing: fiber. We have all heard that fiber is an important part of our diet, but what is it? How much fiber do we need? Registered Dietician Jen Davis explains the role soluble fiber plays in our diet.

Jen likens soluble fiber to a sponge. It absorbs water and uses it to create a gel. This produces two very important benefits to our bodies. First, that gel attaches to cholesterol and carries it through the digestive system and out of the body, helping reduce the risk of heart disease. Secondly, because the gel slows the movement of the digestive system, it slows down the rate at which sugar enters the bloodstream. This is valuable for people with Type-2 diabetes. Fiber also provides a feeling of fullness, which is helpful if you are trying to watch your weight.

Most plant-based foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, but certain foods are richer in one type over the other. The best sources for soluble fiber are oats, beans, nuts, lentils, and fruits – like strawberries or apples, and vegetables – like peas.

It is very important to note, as you start increasing your fiber intake – do it gradually. It is equally important to also increase how much water you drink! Remember, soluble fiber acts like a sponge, pulling water from your body into the digestive system to create a gel. You need to drink more water to help your cells continue to function.

Generally, women up to 51 years old should consume 25 grams of fiber a day, and women who are older than 51 years old should take in 21 grams a day. Men under the age of 51 should consume 38 grams a day, or 30 grams a day if they are over 51 years old. A good estimate for what a child’s fiber intake should be: the child’s age, plus 5 grams.

There is a great tool on choosemyplate.gov that can help you figure out how much fiber is in a serving of a particular food. It is called Food-A-Pedia. Type in the food you want to look up, then click the nutrient info tab for a variety of nutritional information, including fiber per serving.

Remember, build your health – one change at a time.

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