When you think of nutrients, do you think of vitamins and minerals? These are essential components of a healthy diet — and best consumed in whole food form, rather than from supplements in most cases. Something else we don’t always think of as a nutrient, but is just as critical to health, is dietary fiber.
When you hear “fiber,” you may think of a bottle of Metamucil, to help with constipation. While it’s certainly true that that is a benefit of a fiber supplement, whole food sources are much better. Supplements tend to contain just one kind of fiber, called insoluble fiber, which helps to clean out the bowels – that by itself is important to health and quality of life. But you can go beyond that: Whole food sources of soluble fiber are associated with obesity prevention, lower blood cholesterol, better blood sugar control, and even lower risk of colon and breast cancer.
So how much is enough? Most Americans get about 8-14 grams of fiber per day, but even mainstream nutritional guidelines recommend 25-35 grams per day! If you’re eating the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.), start working on increasing your fiber intake to improve your health. This is best done gradually, to avoid digestive upset. Also, don’t just reach for a fiber supplement — make fiber-rich foods a part of your daily diet:
- Flaxseed (grind 2 Tablespoons daily)
- Pears, prunes, pineapple
- Legumes (beans)
- Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts)