It is easy to understand why we need vitamins, calcium or carbohydrates. But what good is fiber? We cannot digest it, it has no calories and no nutritional value. And all we hear these days is that we need to double our fiber intake. What does fiber do for us and why do we need to eat more of it?
Fiber and Obesity
Doctors and scientists have been saying for ages that Americans need to increase their fiber intake to take the 20-35 grams a day recommended by the American Heart Association. At the moment, most Americans are taking about 15g. In a review of studies on fiber in nutrition conducted by the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, scientists agreed that increasing fiber intake can be a single significant way of reducing obesity epidemics in the country.
The review looked at the studies on the effects of fiber on hunger, energy intake, satiety and body composition in healthy people. Most of studies indicate that, if eating the same number of calories, an increase in intake of fiber increased satiety and decreases feeling of hunger afterwards. Studies indicate that additional 14 g of fiber a day for two days or more and a 10 percent of decrease in energy consumption resulted in weight loss of 1.9 kg over about four months. The results were even better in obese people.
Interestingly, the benefits were about the same regardless of the source of fiber – food or supplements.
- High fiber diet may lower cholesterol levels;
- It helps normalize blood glucose and insulin levels preventing heart disease and type 2 diabetes;
- It promotes regular bowel movements;
- It prevents constipation.
- It helps prevent diverticulosis- the formation of intestinal pouches (diverticula);
- It may reduce risk of colorectal cancer;
- It may protect from breast cancer;
- Fiber is a source of micronutrients, which are not present in supplements
It is not difficult adding more fiber to your nutrition once you realize how much good it does. In fact, you cannot overdo it with fiber, it has no calories. To get the idea where to get your fiber, think of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole wheat grains and nuts. For example, you can get 4 g of fiber from 2 slices of whole wheat bread, 1 cup of cooked brown rice, 1 cup of raw carrots or 1 sweet potato. Just 1 cup of Raisin Bran will give you 7.5 grams of fiber.
The easiest way to get fiber into your kid’s nutrition is through smoothies. Mix some veggies with sweet fruits so that the kids do not realize they are eating them, add low fat milk or yoghurt and you have a perfect meal loaded with fiber and nutrients. And your kids will think that you are way cool giving them smoothie for breakfast.