Often, when we talk about diet, most of us make the assumption that the discussion revolves around weight loss. That can be the case for some people. But we should all be concerned about a healthy diet, regardless of our body size or caloric needs. Diet is essential to warding off many chronic health conditions, and living a longer, healthier life.
One common problem, for nearly all of us eating a typical American diet, is a lack of appropriate fiber intake. If your diet is heavy on meats, dairy, and refined flours, but deficient in fresh produce and whole grains, you are probably not getting enough fiber.
Functions of fiber in the body. Thanks to research on the link between dietary choices and chronic illnesses, we have reached a solid understanding of the functions of fiber in the body. Fiber aids in the following processes, all of which are of utmost importance:
- Aids proper digestion, prevents hemorrhoids, and lowers the risk of digestive diseases such as colon cancer
- Prevents constipation
- Helps you to feel full, and prevents cravings for less healthy fare
- Keeps blood sugar levels more even between meals, particularly for those with diabetes
- Helps to lower “bad” cholesterol levels and protects the cardiovascular system
- A high fiber diet is often lower in calories, helping you to maintain weight and avoid health complications related to weight
How much fiber should you be eating? Men over age 50 should include at least 30 grams of fiber in their daily diets. Women over age 50 should aim for at least 21 grams.
How do you get more fiber? Luckily, eating more fiber is simple, and you probably don’t need to count grams once you’ve changed your diet somewhat. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, include more beans and nuts in your diet, and opt for whole grains over white flour. For breakfast, look for whole grain cereals.
Increase slowly. If you suddenly add a significant amount of fiber to your diet, you could suffer a bit of digestive discomfort as your body adjusts. Try making just one change per day, until you’re eating the optimal amount of fiber. Remember, also, to continue drinking plenty of water. This will keep fiber-rich foods moving through your digestive system, and keep you more comfortable.
Talk to your doctor or nutritionist if you’re concerned about your diet. He or she will make more specific recommendations for changes that will keep you healthier and help to prevent serious diseases.