Fiber for Women Over 40

Fiber for Women Over 40

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Lentils are an excellent source of fiber that can be incorporated into a healthy diet.

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Dietary fiber, also referred to as "bulk" or "roughage," is a component of plant foods that our bodies cannot completely digest. Because dietary fiber provides many health benefits, it should be a regular part of a healthy daily diet. Currently, the average dietary fiber intake of Americans is well below the recommended amount. The fiber recommendation set by the Institute of Medicine and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is 25 grams per day for women between the ages of 31 and 50 and 22 grams per day for women 51 years and older. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and both are found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

Health Benefits

Dietary fiber influences digestive health, disease prevention and weight control. Adequate dietary fiber intake can help normalize bowel movements, decrease constipation and prevent diverticulosis. Because dietary fiber helps reduce "bad" blood cholesterol levels, it may reduce the risk of heart disease, and it also can help control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and help prevent type 2 diabetes. In addition, foods that contain significant amounts of fiber provide a lasting feeling of fullness, which can help control excessive food intake and thus promote weight control.

Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber, as its name suggests, is soluble in water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract after ingestion. This type of fiber slows the digestive process and is responsible for lowering cholesterol levels by binding to low-density lipoproteins -- the "bad" cholesterol. Soluble fiber also helps control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes by slowing the absorption of sugar. Foods high in soluble fiber include oats, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, apples, carrots and flaxseed.

Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber absorbs water, speeds up the movement of food through the digestive system and adds bulk to the stool. It helps prevent constipation and the development of diverticulosis. Good sources of insoluble fiber include whole grains, wheat bran, nuts, beans, cauliflower, green beans and potatoes.

Tips and Precautions

Most plant foods contain different amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber, so it is important to consume a variety of foods to gain all of the health benefits of fiber, suggests Mayo Clinic. To increase your fiber intake, eat more whole grain products such as whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta and brown rice instead of refined grains such as white bread, white pasta and white rice. You can also increase your fiber intake by eating the skin on fruits and vegetables and choosing high fiber snacks such as popcorn, fresh fruit and dried fruit and nut mixes.

Consuming a large amount of fiber in a short period of time may cause some abdominal comfort, so try increasing your intake gradually to achieve the recommended daily intake. In addition, make sure you are consuming adequate amounts of water with fiber-rich foods to help pass them through the digestive system more easily.


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