Ask Ginger: Importance of Fiber
You've got questions ... we’ve got answers! Email your queries about healthy foods, physical activity and screen time for kids and Ginger will answer them here on the Phipps blog.
Q: Why is fiber important and how can I make sure I'm getting enough in my diet? (Megan, Oakland)
A: Great question! Fiber is an essential nutrient that we can get from our diets and it is important that we eat enough each day for it to work at its full potential. If you don’t know much about fiber, keep reading. Here are the details about fiber and why it’s such a big deal.
Fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is named for its ability to dissolve readily in water. This type of fiber can be found in foods like oats and barley, and many fruits and vegetables including beans and legumes. Insoluble fiber is the opposite; it does not dissolve in water and can be found in whole grain foods, wheat bran and in some vegetables.1 Both are responsible for different actions in the body that help us regulate our digestive systems, so getting enough of both in the foods we eat is essential. Not only is fiber good for allowing proper and effective digestion, but it also works to regulate blood sugar levels and cholesterol, and it allows our immune system to work better by promoting healthy bacteria growth that help fight infection and disease.1 It is also good to note that fiber helps with body weight regulation by its ability to make us feel full sooner. So how much should we actually be getting every day?
Males generally need more fiber in a day than females do for all ages. Healthy adult men and women are recommended to get about 38 grams and 25 grams, respectively.2 This is the highest recommendation for fiber by age groups. Children, adolescents, and teens should be getting more fiber in their diet as they get older. However, after age 50, recommendations decrease to 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women.2 More often than not, people are barely reaching half of this suggested intake. Let’s look at some ideas for ways to increase fiber intakes for both you and your children.
- When grocery shopping, check out the nutrition labels on the products you’re looking to buy. A good rule of thumb to know something is a good source of fiber is if there are about 2.5 grams per serving.2
- Try switching your regular bread, grain and pasta products to whole-grain or whole-wheat which contain much more fiber.
- When eating fruits and vegetables, leave the peel on when possible. Peels on foods like apples are often where the majority of the fiber hides out!
- Try hummus as a dip for whole grain crackers or vegetables like carrots and celery. Chickpeas, which are the main ingredient in most hummus, are in the legume family and naturally contain lots of fiber.
- Eat vegetables steamed or raw whenever possible. Cooking can cause a decrease in fiber and other essential nutrients they provide.
- Enjoy a stir-fry for your next family dinner, using a variety of veggies and choose brown rice over white rice.
- Try making your own trail mix and include a whole grain cereal and your favorite nuts for a great snack to bring with you anywhere.
- Substituting up to 1/3 of the white flour called for with oats or whole-wheat flour will also work with most recipes!