Make fiber a part of your day

Adding more fiber to your meals should be an important part of each day’s meal plan.

Fiber is important for many reasons. It fills us up with fewer calories so we feel full faster and eat less food. A very good reason during the holidays to make sure we’re eating extra fiber along with all of those holiday goodies.

Fiber is also important for our digestive system. This is what grandma called “being regular.” Whether you have a problem with constipation or diarrhea, adding more fiber along with drinking plenty of water can help regulate your digestive system.

The most important reasons for eating fiber have to do with our health, and these reasons are especially important if you have diabetes. Here are some health advantages you might benefit from by increasing your fiber intake:

  • Lowers your risk of developing food related cancers such as breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer.
  • Lowers your risk of heart disease by slowing down the absorption of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
  • Lowers your risk of obesity. Since fiber fills us, we tend to eat less food and therefore consume fewer calories when eating high fiber meals.
  • Lowers your risk of diabetes. Eating a high fiber meal slows down the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream, helping to prevent an increase in blood sugar after eating.

How much fiber do you need each day? Women need about 25 grams of fiber a day and men need about 35 grams of fiber a day. Reading the nutrition fact label on foods can help you determine how much fiber you’re consuming.

What should you eat to increase your fiber intake? Fresh fruits and vegetables are a good place to start, especially fruits with seeds like berries and edible skin, such as apples and pears. Peas, corn and potatoes, with the skin on, are all high in fiber. Remember that these vegetables are also higher in carbohydrate than most vegetables, so watch your portion sizes. Whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds are also good sources of fiber. Eating a high fiber cereal, such as oatmeal for breakfast and snacking on fresh fruit, raw veggies or popcorn are simple ways to add more fiber. Whichever high fiber foods you choose, remember that portion size counts. As with anything you eat, watch how much carbohydrate you’re consuming and balance your meals and snacks.

How to get started? Start by keeping track of everything you eat and drink. Read labels to find out how much fiber is in the foods you’re eating. Once you know how much fiber you need to add, make a plan to add one fiber rich food every day until you’re at your goal. Begin to benefit from the healthy advantages of eating a high fiber diet.

For more information on healthy eating and diabetes contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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