Ways To Add More Fiber To Your Diet
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 20202025 recommends that adults eat 22 to 34 grams of fiber each day, the specific amount will depend on your age and sex. You may ask yourself, So how much is 22 to 34 grams of fiber? Well, think about it this way, 30 grams of fiber would be like eating about six apples a day. And although apples are a great source of fiber, eating six a day is not recommended or necessary. Instead, spread your fiber intake among different foods throughout the day. You can:
- Have a fiber-friendly breakfast. Try avocado toast topped with chickpeas, or make a bowl of oatmeal with nuts and berries.
- Choose whole grains. Look for bread that lists whole grain flour as the first ingredient. Swap out white rice for brown rice or quinoa. Try whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta.
- Focus on non-starchy vegetables. Start dinners with a salad. Or, add spinach, broccoli, or a bag of frozen mixed vegetables to your meals for a fiber boost.
- Add beans or other legumes. Try adding legumes such as lentils and peas or different kinds of beans to salads, soups, stews, or casseroles. Or you can puree legumes to make dips and spreads.
- Snack on fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Choose fruits and vegetables such as apples, pears, bananas, or baby carrots to snack on. Keep almonds, sunflower seeds, and pistachios handy for a quick fiber-friendly snack.
Getting More Fiber In Your Diet
The easiest way youre going to get foods with the most fiber is by sticking to fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetable skin in particular has the majority of the fiber present in them so if youre eating an apple, instead of peeling it, leave the skin on, Tasha Temple, MS, CDE, registered dietitian with Gwinnett Medical Center in Atlanta, told Healthline.
When it comes to fiber, more isnt necessarily better. Temple cautioned that eating too much, especially if youre not drinking water, can cause discomfort and constipation.
She added that we should shoot for 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day, however, anything over that and you need to make sure youre drinking enough water to make sure that fiber is activated and able to move through the digestive system.
According to the , foods with the highest fiber content include:
- high-fiber bran ready-to-eat cereal: 14 grams in ¾ cup
- cooked yellow, navy, or small white beans: almost 10 grams in 1/2 cup
- shredded wheat: 5 grams in 1 cup
Fiber Does Not Affect Your Blood Sugar Levels
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body cant digest, so you should subtract the grams of fiber from the total carbohydrate.
On Nutrition Facts food labels, the grams of dietary fiber are already included in the total carbohydrate count. But because fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body cant digest, it does not affect your blood sugar levels. You should subtract the grams of fiber from the total carbohydrate.
How Does Fiber Affect Glucose Levels
Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate just like sugars and starches . This sometimes can be confusing for people living with diabetes. Carbohydrate is the macronutrient that has the biggest impact on glucose. So, does fiber have any effect on your glucose levels?
The short answer is no. Fiber does not raise glucose levels because it is not digested by the body.
Fiber is the structural portion of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and legumes that cannot be digested or absorbed by your body. Therefore, fiber does not provide calories nor glucose for energy.
So if fiber does not provide glucose to the body for energy, why should we eat it? There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber keeps your digestive tract working well. Whole wheat bran is an example of this type of fiber. Soluble fiber can help lower your cholesterol levels and help with steady glucose levels. Oatmeal is an example of this type of fiber. Common sources of fiber are wheat, corn, or oat bran legumes nuts and vegetables and fruits.
So how much fiber should I eat? Research suggests the average person should eat between 20-35 grams of fiber each day. Most Americans eat about half that amount. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people with diabetes who ate 50 grams of fiber a day particularly soluble fiber were able to manage their glucose levels easier than those who ate less fiber.
Some ways to increase the fiber content of your meals:
Fiber Keeps Inflammation Down
Fiber keeps inflammation at bay by feeding gut bacteria. Most prebioticswhich feed the microorganisms already in your gutcan be classified as dietary fiber . Prebiotics help maintain the balance between the anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory gut microorganisms. Imbalances in the gut microbiotaa condition known as dysbiosis that occurs when some gut microorganisms flourish while others falterhave been linked to gut inflammation and metabolic changes and diseases like obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and malnutrition.
Diets high in fat and sugar and low in fibersuch as the Western dietare associated with lower levels of certain beneficial bacteria. Fiber, in contrast, helps keep the gut microbiome in a healthy balance and increases the diversity of the microbiome, including bacteria that promote anti-inflammatory processes. Research from the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study, for example, showed that people who ate more fiber had higher blood levels of indolepropionic acid, an anti-inflammatory chemical produced by gut bacteria that also regulates blood glucose.
In addition, the short-chain fatty acids produced by fiber have anti-inflammatory effects through several different pathways.
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What The Study Found
Researchers tracked the fiber consumption of 200 participants, average age of 50, with diabetes and hypertension. They were given diet prescriptions that included a detailed list of different foods and portion sizes. Health checks were performed at the beginning, then at 3 and 6 months into the study.
Ive done a lot of work in obesity and atherosclerosis in type 2 diabetes and hypertension cases, so this time I wanted to see how dietary modifications, especially a high-fiber diet in this population, can help my patients improve their various cardiovascular risk factors, lead study author Dr. Rohit Kapoor, medical director of Care Well Heart and Super Specialty Hospital, told Healthline.
The participants consumed 1,200 to 1,500 calories and the recommended daily allowance for fiber in this group was about 30 grams. Their fiber intake was increased up to 25 percent, to about 38 grams, for this study.
Over 6 months, the high-fiber diet improved several cardiovascular risk factors:
- 9 percent reduction in serum cholesterol
- 23 percent reduction in triglycerides
- 15 percent reduction of systolic blood pressure
- 28 percent reduction of fasting blood sugar
The results were amazing! These findings underscore the importance of dietary counseling, as well as the role of dietitians and diabetes educators, said Kapoor.
He said foods high in fiber have long been associated with lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, improving blood sugar metabolism, and even helping with weight loss.
The Importance Of Fiber For People With Diabetes
Since diabetes can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, fiber plays an important role in meal plans for people with diabetes. According to Diabetes UK, fiber can reduce the risk of cardio-metabolic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and obesity, as well as colorectal cancer.
Fiber helps by reducing blood cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressure, and it can also help you better manage your weight. High-fiber foods tend to be filling and most have a low glycemic index , which means they can help manage your appetite and will have less of an effect on your blood glucose levels than other food options.
Fiber is only found in plant-based foods, and high-fiber foods tend to be low in fat and calories. However, keep in mind that adding fats, such as a cheese or butter to vegetables, will increase the fat and calorie content. To keep your diet heart healthy, steam veggies and flavor with herb seasonings or low-sodium broth as an alternative to butter or oil.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that high-fiber foods can take longer to chew, which gives our bodies more time to realize when we are full and can help prevent overeating. Fiber also allows water to remain in our stomach and intestines, which can help us feel full for longer.
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What Types Of Fibers Are There
Even though soluble and insoluble fibers work differently for the body, they are both good for you. Soluble fiber dissolves easily in water and can lower cholesterol by carrying out excess cholesterol when the fiber is excreted from the body. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve easily in water and helps keep your digestive tract working well.
Beans Peas And Lentils
Legumes are nutrient dense and have a low glycemic index, making them a great addition to diabetic-conscious meals. Some common legumes are lentils, beans, peas, and chickpeas. Legumes are also high in fiber, which helps keep blood sugar from spiking since the fiber slows the breakdown of the foods. Try making a hearty lentil soup or having a chickpea hummus to dip veggies into.
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Importance Of Diet In Diabetes
Much of the food you eat is broken down into sugar , which gets released into the bloodstream. When blood sugar increases, the pancreas, an organ responsible for digestion and blood sugar regulation, releases the hormone insulin. Insulin then helps cells absorb the sugar to be used for energy or stored.
In diabetes, the body does not produce enough insulin to enable the cells to absorb enough sugar from the blood. Or the body might have enough insulin, but the cells do not respond to it. In both cases, this leads to there being too much sugar in the blood, which, over time can lead to serious health issues, such as vision loss, heart disease, and kidney disease.
Reducing sugar and other simple carbohydrates in your diet plays an important role in keeping blood sugar levels down, which can slow the progression of the disease and stave off such complications.
The Benefits Of Dietary Fiber
Dietary fiber can help your body in many ways:
- It slows down the rate of digestion which can help you better extract nutrients from the food you eat
- It can lessen the spike in your blood sugar after eating
- It helps move food through your entire digestive system more efficiently
- And of course: it helps prevent constipation!
The most obvious symptom youll experience if you arent getting enough fiber is constipation.
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Inulin And Insulin Secretion
Inulin, a type of fiber found in some plants, such as chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus and leeks, might reduce risk of Type 2 diabetes by decreasing levels of fatty acids, which impair insulin secretion, according to a study published in the February 2010 issue of “Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.” Participants, all without diabetes, consumed beverages containing 56 grams of high-fructose corn syrup and 24 grams of inulin. Blood sugar and insulin levels rose to similar levels after the test beverage compared to a control group that consumed high-fructose corn syrup without inulin. However, levels of fatty acids in the bloodstream decreased more in the inulin group. Additionally, inulin increased levels of a hormone secreted by intestinal cells that promotes insulin production and secretion. These results indicate that inulin might promote improved blood sugar control when used regularly.
What Are Good Sources Of Fiber
- Vegetables, including: acorn and butternut squash collard greens kale broccoli carrots spinach Brussels sprouts green beans sweet potatoes asparagus
- Fruits, including: avocado raspberries and blackberries pears kiwi pomegranate citrus, such as oranges and tangerines
- Beans and legumes, including: chickpeas, lentils green peas edamame many kinds of beans, such as kidney, black, pinto and navy.
- Whole grains, including: bulgur kamut pearl barley quinoa buckwheat
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Putting It All Together
Balancing all the different nutrients in your diet can easily make your head spin, especially when youre trying to keep your calories in check, too. We know, its a lot to manage. But there are some simple strategies to help you get a grip on what you should eat. Try aiming for overall benchmarks for yourself by setting goals at every meal . Then, create a running list of foods and recipes that you can pull from as you plan what to put on your plate. Itll get easier when you have a line-up of foods you enjoy that also fit both your nutrient and calorie budgets, so you dont have to run the numbers at every meal. You can think of it as automating certain meals: Maybe you alternate a few go-to breakfasts and lunches that help you get in lots of fiber and enough protein, with a little healthy fat thrown in. That leaves dinner a little more open and interesting. You can build out a recipe collection you like, constantly adding to it so you have plenty of options that deliver good nutrients, plus deliciousness.
To get you started, consider splitting up your plate like this:
- ½: non starchy vegetables
- ¼: protein
- ¼: carbs
How Psyllium Fiber Helps Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
According to the Cleveland Clinic, among supplements that have been studied for their ability to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels, psylliumâs evidence was graded the highest. Research has shown that psyllium fiber can help maintain healthy blood sugar levels when looking at both fasting blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1c â an indicator of average blood sugar over the previous 2-3 months.8
It helps control hunger.
Since consuming sugar or carbohydrate heavy foods is what makes our blood sugar levels rise, limiting sugar intake is one way of helping maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Psyllium fiber supplements like Metamucil can help you feel fuller longer by forming a gel in the digestive tract.* This mechanism can help curb hunger between meals, reducing your desire to eat.*
One study showed that taking 2 servings of Metamucil before breakfast and lunch for 3 consecutive days enhanced feelings of fullness and decreased feelings of hunger.9
It traps sugar in the digestive system.
Metamucil, through its gelling action, also helps slow sugar absorption from the digestive tract. Without a gel forming fiber, sugars are free to rapidly be absorbed into the bloodstream and raising blood sugar levels.10
How does psyllium work?
When psyllium mixes with water in the body, it forms a gel that is not digested, absorbed, or broken down.11
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More Things You Can Do To Help Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Psyllium fiber supplements are not the only way to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.* Here are 5 more tips to achieving your blood sugar goals to support a healthy life.
Research has shown that exercising, especially after meals, can help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.12 Though it is often considered important to wait to exercise following meals, exercise beginning approximately 30 minutes after the start of a meal can be beneficial.12
Another advantage of exercise is that when done regularly, it can improve insulin sensitivity.12 Maintaining insulin sensitivity is critical for the bodyâs ability to regulate its blood sugar levels.
2. Eat a low carb diet and choose low glycemic foods
3. Consume foods with fiber.
Just as psyllium fiber supplements can help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, fiber rich foods can also be beneficial. Foods rich in fiber have more complex carbohydrates and fewer simple sugars so it takes the body longer to digest them. These foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, and as a bonus, tend to be rich in nutrients
4. Stay hydrated
5. Get enough sleep
From Blood Sugar Control To Weight Loss And More
Dr. Danielle Weiss is the founder of the Center for Hormonal Health and Well-Being, a personalized, proactive, patient-centered medical practice with a unique focus on integrative endocrinology. She enjoys giving lectures and writing articles for both the lay public and medical audiences.
Foods containing fiber can provide a range of health benefits that can help manage type 2 diabetes. This important nutrient, found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, plays a role in regulating blood sugar levels and can help prevent possible complications from diabetes, such as heart disease.
Don’t Forget Beans And Nuts
Beans and nuts are some of the most fiber-rich foods. Try having a few servings each week.
- Add kidney beans, pintos, black beans, or navy beans to soups, casseroles, or stews.
- Dress up salads with chickpeas, lentils, or soybeans.
- Have about 2 tablespoons of nuts as a snack. Try almonds, walnuts, or peanuts. Or use them to top salads or rice dishes.
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