You might think of fiber as only a necessity for older folks, but everyone can benefit from plenty of it in their diet. Dietary fiber has been linked to lower risks of colon and heart disease, brings cholesterol levels down, and is essential for healthy and sustainable weight loss.
It can come across as an elusive nutritional concept, but it's really quite simple — fiber comes from the parts of a plant that humans cannot break down in their belly. While it's all beneficial for your body, there are two defining categories: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber, found in foods like oats, legumes, and citrus fruit, forms a gel that delays gastric emptying, helping people feel full and satisfied for longer after they eat. Soluble fiber helps regulates bowel movements that tend to move too quickly and also can help control blood sugar levels. Most commonly found in root veggies and whole-wheat flour, insoluble fiber similarly can't be broken down by the body. Registered dietitian Shira Lenchewski differentiates between the two by comparing insoluble fiber to "a broom that moves everything in the intestines along." This broom sweeps along down your GI track, leading to healthy bowel movements.
Keep reading to learn why fiber helps you eat less, keeps your belly flat, and regulates if you're eating enough.
When you eat a diet full of high-fiber foods, you're left feeling fuller for longer. Foods that are high in fiber generally require more chewing time, and slowing down as you eat gives your brain more time to recognize that you're satisfied and no longer hungry. This way, you're less likely to overdo it and leave the table with a bloated, uncomfortable belly. Even better, many high-fiber foods tend to be less energy dense, or more simply put, a large portion of high-fiber foods bring fewer calories to the table than most low-fiber options.
The Mayo Clinic recommends women consume 25 grams of fiber per day, but most women are falling far short, only taking in 14 to 15 grams per day. While there are fiber supplements available on the market, eating fiber straight from the source really is the best option. Raspberries are one of the top fruity fiber sources, but there are plenty of other produce options that help you fill up on fiber deliciously. If you're a smoothie junkie, try out one of these high-fiber smoothie recipes that offer seven grams of fiber or more, nearly 30 percent of your daily recommended intake for the whole day.