As a dietitian I often hear people with diabetes tell me they are following a low carb diet. When I hear this, I always check for adequate fiber intake. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate. So a low carb diet could equal a low fiber diet. Fiber impacts glycemic control and many other functions in your body. A diet high in fiber has been shown to reduce the risk for obesity, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Fiber is found in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. There are different types of fiber that provide different health benefits. Most whole foods contain a combination of fibers, so to keep things simple I am just focusing on fiber in general. Here are 5 reasons to keep adequate fiber in your daily diet.
- Glycemic control- Fiber helps to control the rise in glucose after eating. Carbohydrates from fiber are absorbed slower because fiber takes longer to digest.
- Gut bacteria- Fiber helps to feed the healthy bacteria in our digestive system. When fiber ferments short-chain fatty acids are produced which causes a cascade of benefits including a stronger immune system, improved absorption of vitamins and minerals, decreasing inflammation, lowering cholesterol, and again improving glycemic control. What’s in your gut matters.
- Weight management-Fiber hangs out in the stomach longer, giving you a feeling of fullness. Foods that contain fiber often take longer to chew helping to slow down your rate of eating. Fiber isn’t digested meaning there are few calories from fiber.
- Decrease cholesterol-Think of fiber like a sponge absorbing cholesterol. Fiber helps cholesterol to be excreted as waste, so there is less in your body. Foods that contain fiber may also be replacing other higher fat snack foods.
- Healthy digestion-Fiber helps with bowel regularity and preventing constipation. While fiber sits in the stomach longer, it goes through the intestines more quickly.
So how much fiber do you need? Recommendations are for 25-35 grams of fiber per day. Most Americans get about 15 grams of fiber. A fiber supplement isn’t always the answer. Fiber supplements can interact with some medications. Talk with your health care provider before starting a fiber supplement. Try to increase your fiber intake with food first. The best way to do this is to eat more plants.
by Christine McKinney, RD LDN CDE