Photo of fiber-rich food

A common misconception is that dietary fiber is only and all about softening your stool. Well, turns out that’s a load of poop! So sorry. I couldn’t resist. 

Let’s begin again. Welcome to the party. I’d like to introduce you to my friend Fiber. You may think you know her but, in the last few weeks, three highly intelligent people I know suggested all she does is normalize bowel movement. Seriously, though, Fiber is so much more interesting and complex than that! I am capitalizing the word deliberately, in order to personalize it and encourage you to befriend it.

It is, of course, true that Fiber normalizes bowel movements and softens your stool. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, people. She also lowers cholesterol levels, plays a key role in maintaining good gut health, helps control blood sugar levels, aids in achieving healthy weight by making you feel fuller and supporting your metabolism, and helps you live longer and better. For real! Turns out it can be very challenging for a lot of people to lower their cholesterol by eating foods low in cholesterol BUT eating foods that are high in Fiber can actually help. 

Fiber is an essential nutrient, yet it’s one of those nutrients many of us ignore. Until recently, it was a line I was comfortable overlooking on a nutrition label. Seems I’m not alone. Many people fall short of the recommended daily amount in their diets and there’s some inconsistency as to what the recommended daily amount actually is. The current recommendation is around 25-30g per day and most people are consuming much less than that.

A healthy and helpful Fiber intake is achievable through food and, in most cases, doesn’t require a supplement. Here are some easy ways to increase your fiber: eat whole grain bread, cereals with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving and cook with brown rice instead of white rice or start by mixing them together. Oats are a great choice and so are dried fruits so if you think you don’t like oatmeal raisin cookies and you’ve never tried that particular flavor at Levain Bakery here in NYC, you might want to rectify that oversight in the name of Fiber. Add chickpeas or green peas to your salads and enjoy the benefit of added protein AND fiber. 

While all fruits have some Fiber, there are some that are higher than others. Apples, oranges, tangerines, pears, and a cup of strawberries or blueberries all have 3-4g of Fiber. Raspberries and blackberries have even more (8g of Fiber in one cup!). Additional great sources of Fiber include vegetables, legumes and nuts.

All this to say, Fiber is worthy of befriending. She’s easy to find once you know what you’re looking for and easy to like. It’s a friendship that will bring out the very best in you.

Something to think about:  “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough” – Franklin D. Roosevelt. See what I did there? Fiber is good!

Something to try: It can be hard to keep track of all the things we’re meant to be tracking. I use MyFitnessPal, a health and fitness tracking smartphone app, to track my fiber, among other things. There are a lot of tracking apps available and they can be a helpful tool to learn how much you actually need to consume to meet daily recommendations. Try the app of your choosing and track your fiber for a week.

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