Fiber works to absorb large amounts of fluid within the bowel, making your stools softer, and leads to improved bowel movements. Research suggests that the result of improved bowel movements is a reduction of the incidence in colon cancer. Fiber can be insoluble – such as fiber in nuts, whole grains, veggies, and wheat bran, or soluble, like the fiber in apples, oats, beans, and barley. Soluble fiber has been shown to help keep cholesterol under control, which staves off heart disease. Fiber can also work to regulate blood sugar levels to prevent or reduce the significance and incidence of diabetes.
So how do we get more fiber into the diet? I've read that it is recommended that adult women under fifty years of age consume 25 grams of fiber each day and that adult men of the same age take in 38 grams. Women over fifty need 21 grams of fiber and men over fifty need 30 grams each day.
To get more fiber, I recommend high fiber cereals (Whole Foods makes a great one that I'll be writing about soon). They make a great breakfast or a filling snack anytime. Lima beans are an excellent source of fiber; in just ½ cup of lima beans, you’ll find 7 grams of fiber, but black beans have 7.5 grams per ½ cup. You’ll also find fiber in apples (3.3 grams) and raspberries (1/2 cup has 5.5 grams).
You can always take the “easy” way out by adding fiber to your diet with fiber products, but I think getting it naturally is always better.
Yummy High Fiber Smoothie
1 cup berries – blackberries, blueberries or raspberries, or a mix of all three
1 medium banana
1 cup almond milk
2 tsp. oat bran
1 cup crushed ice
Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Makes two servings of about 150 calories each, and 2 weight watchers points (although it will depend on exactly what fruits you use).