The summer season is here, bringing with it longer and warmer days and an abundance of opportunities to eat a high-fiber diet – fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes – to help keep your digestive system healthy.
So what exactly is dietary fiber? Also known as roughage or bulk, the Mayo Clinic explains dietary fiber as the parts of plant foods that our bodies can’t digest or absorb. While our bodies break down food components like fats, proteins and carbohydrates, they’re not able to digest fiber. Rather, fiber passes through our stomach, small intestine and colon and out our bodies.
In the Healthy Lifestyle section of its website, the Clinic also touts the many benefits of a high-fiber diet, including:
- Normalizing bowel movements by softening and increasing the weight and size of stools.
- Helping maintain bowel health by lowering your risk of developing hemorrhoids and diverticular disease.
- Lowering low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol levels.
- Helping reduce blood pressure and inflammation.
- Reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and helping control blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar.
- Aiding in achieving a healthy weight.
The Health and Medicine Division, which provides science-based advice on medicine and health issues, recommends 38 grams of daily fiber for men age 50 and younger and 25 grams for women. For adults over the age of 51, the recommendation is 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women.
Keep these guidelines in mind when you need to bring a covered dish to a barbecue or are looking to pack a healthy snack for a hike. It’s not that difficult to choose tasty foods that also provide soluble fiber (dissolves in water) or insoluble fiber (doesn’t dissolve).
Just one medium artichoke offers 10.3 grams of fiber, while a cup of peas offers 8.8 grams. A cup of sweet corn – a summertime staple – has 3.6 grams of fiber. Raspberries also are a great source of fiber – 8 grams in just one cup.
Meanwhile, you can also get a dose of dietary fiber through a variety of grains, cereals and pastas. A cup of whole wheat spaghetti offers 6.3 grams of fiber, while a cup of instant cooked oatmeal offers 4 grams. When you head to the movies this summer, don’t forget to stop by the concession stand for some air-popped popcorn. Three cups will get you 3.6 grams of fiber toward your daily goal.
The board-certified gastroenterologists at Northeast Digestive Health Center can diagnose and treat a variety of digestive conditions and related diseases. If you’re experiencing symptoms or have concerns or questions about your digestive health, contact us today.