Adding more fiber to your diet

July 30, 2013

Dietary fiber is recommended for anyone, but it can be especially instrumental for those looking to stay healthy or lose weight, according to the Mayo Clinic. While it is most known for the benefits it offers to your digestive system, fiber offers myriad other advantages to your body, including possible protection from heart disease and diabetes. Combined with exercise, like regularly running on your home treadmill, you could achieve your target weight with help from this key nutritional element. 

Soluble vs. insoluble
Fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. They are so named for their ability, or lack thereof, to dissolve in water. While soluble fiber like that found in oats and citrus fruits will mix with water to form a gel-like substance, insoluble fiber like wheat bran and nuts will not. Many plant-based foods like oats and beans are a source of both forms.

Your body cannot process or digest fiber – it simply passes through as-is. This is where many of its inherent advantages come from. It promotes healthier bowel movements simply because it adds additional mass, and some researchers believe that fiber can help with general colon health. Furthermore, it gives the sensation of fullness in that it literally fills you rather than breaking down. As such, it helps prevents overeating by making a meal feel larger and more fulfilling. One of its greatest advantages for weight loss is that fibrous food is very energy-light for the volume of food consumed, meaning it will allow you to eat more without adding unneeded calories.

Best sources
Needless to say, fiber should not be suddenly introduced in huge amounts all at once. Experts recommend taking a period of weeks or months to slowly increase your fiber intake until you reach a healthy level according to the CDC. Also, ACTIVE points out the need to pay close attention to the labeling of products. Dietary fiber is not the same as added fiber, the latter being artificially included during food processing. Most experts believe adding fiber from natural food sources is the healthier option, but fiber supplementation can be beneficial to those with special nutritional needs. As always, consult a doctor before introducing supplements of this nature to your diet.

For the everyday runner, fiber sources are easy to come by. Start using whole grain and whole wheat instead of their processed counterparts in everything from your bread to your cereal. Beyond that, raw fruits and vegetables are often excellent sources of fiber. Bananas, apples, legumes, carrots and broccoli will all help satisfy healthy levels. The next time you’re about to hop on your home exercise bike, boost your dietary fiber levels and remember to drink water. Fiber works best with water to absorb, so combine it with proper hydration and you could be watching your waistline shrink while your general health improves by leaps and bounds.