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'Boring’ fiber is anything but

Let’s talk about dietary fiber!

I get it: If this was a phone screen you would swipe as fast to the left as possible while saying, “next, please.” Well as boring as dietary fiber is, it might just be the most important nutrient you can give your body and health. If you’re managing or trying to prevent diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel and weight gain, fiber is something you want to know about and eat more of. But not just any type of fiber will do, so let’s find out the best fiber to be eating.

What is fiber? I’m glad you asked.

It is the part of the plant that is not broken down by the human digestive system. There are different types of fiber, but today we will learn about soluble fiber, which can help lower LDL cholesterol. In fact, eating 10 to 15 grams of soluble fiber a day can help reduce LDL cholesterol by 5%. Soluble fiber also plays a role in feeding the healthy bacteria in your colon, keeping you more satisfied after a meal by improving satiety, keeping your blood sugar stable with no strong blood sugar spikes and softening your stool to support regular bowel movements.

All vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes contain soluble fiber. However, these nine foods are the cream of the crop for delivering the highest amount of soluble fiber:

  • Beans (especially black beans and Lima beans) are soluble fiber superstars. Three-quarters cup of black beans or Lima beans have 5.4 grams of soluble fiber. Lima bean tip, make sure you soak them before cooking and never eat them raw.
  • Brussels sprouts have an impressive 4 grams of soluble fiber in one cup with asparagus a close second with 1.7 grams of fiber, which goes a long way in feeding beneficial gut bacteria.
  • Oat cereals are also high in soluble fiber, making oatmeal a better choice than bran cereal. A bowl of oatmeal (made with ¾ cup dry oats) has 3 grams of soluble fiber, but don’t go ditching your bran cereal too fast as a bowl of bran cereal also has just over 2 grams of soluble fiber.
  • Barley is also a great source of soluble fiber with 1.6 grams per cooked cup. It’s an ancient grain that like oats has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease because of its fiber content.
  • In addition to being a healthy fat sources and full of vitamins, avocados contain both types of fiber with half an avocado having 2.1 grams of soluble fiber.
  • Oranges and apricots are the top pick for fruit with soluble fiber as they have 1.8 grams of soluble fiber per small orange or four apricots with skin.
  • Flaxseed is also a good source of soluble fiber with one tablespoon adding 1.2 gram to your cereals, yogurt, smoothies. Flaxseed comes with the bonus of being one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fats.

Now, before you just jump in to increasing your soluble fiber, it’s important to know that when increasing fiber in your diet, it’s best to start slow and increase gradually. This, along with drinking plenty of water, will help prevent constipation or any digestive discomfort as your body adjusts.

Fran Sutherlin, RD, MS is a local registered dietitian, specializing in the use of digestive wellness to prevent or manage chronic disease. She has a master’s degree in nutrition, is a personal health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition. She can be reached at 444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.