Fiber! It’s not one of the macro-nutrients (protein, carbohydrate, or fat) but it’s still a nutrient that can be very useful to track. Don’t get worried, tracking fiber is pretty easy to do with MyFitnessPal (MFP) and will show you how.
Dietary fiber “includes all parts of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. Unlike other food components, such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates — which your body breaks down and absorbs — fiber isn’t digested by your body. Instead, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, colon and out of your body.” (From MayoClinic.com) You’ve probably heard of soluble and insoluble fiber. When fiber is soluble, it just means it will dissolve in water. Insoluble fiber won’t dissolve, but it does help get your digestive system moving.
When most people think about fiber, they always come back to digestion. And that is a huge benefit of a diet high in fiber. You will have great, regular digestion if you get enough fiber in your diet. But fiber does so much more!
Some of the amazing benefits of fiber are (again from mayoclinic.com):
- Normalizes bowel movements. Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may also help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to stool. (Did you know Shakeolgoy has 6g of fiber per serving… that coupled with the prebiotics and digestive enzymes really keeps you regular.)
- Helps maintain bowel health. A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease). Some fiber is fermented in the colon. Researchers are looking at how this may play a role in preventing diseases of the colon.
- Lowers cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Studies also have shown that fiber may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
- Helps control blood sugar levels. In people with diabetes, fiber — particularly soluble fiber — can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Aids in achieving healthy weight. High-fiber foods generally require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you’re no longer hungry, so you’re less likely to overeat. Also, a high-fiber diet tends to make a meal feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time. And high-fiber diets also tend to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.
Good Correlations with High Fiber Diets
The last two points of the bullets above from Mayo Clinic are really useful. First off with blood sugar, you all probably know about the Glycemic Index if you’ve been hanging around teamRIPPED and have been getting serious about your fitness. Low GI foods are the ones typically higher in fiber. These foods are what you would expect: green veggies (peas, green beans, broccoli), oats, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, whole-wheat flour, nuts, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes. If you are eating a high-fiber diet you are going to eat a lot of good foods. What the GI misses is how our body processes foods when we eat them in a meal. The GI is a measurement of a single carbohydrate and its impact on our blood sugar levels. I don’t know about you, but I rarely eat a single type of carbohydrate for a meal. They are always part of a bigger combination of foods. If you are eating high fiber foods, proteins, and fats with you other carbs, much of the impact of a higher GI food are largely blunted.
The second bullet brings out a point I have made in posts like, I’m Stuffed. With many high-fiber foods having such a lower calorie density (think of veggies like roughage), when you eat a big portion of any of those, you get full! The soluble fiber will also expand and become a gel-like substance taking up more space in your stomach. Being full is a good thing. Being full on fiber slows things down from our actual chewing all the way to digestion.
Finally, this is just the cool connection that happens, if you are eating a higher fiber diet the “bad” food choices won’t work. There is no way you can eat 40g of fiber and still eat 150g of sugar. The high-fiber foods tend to be the foods we think of as “good” or “clean.” So if you are seriously tracking and hitting your fiber goal the bad foods will naturally be limited, the fiber will help regulate your blood sugar when you do eat some sugar, and you’ll be full! Fiber is awesome!
Setting up MFP to look at Fiber
Simply go to on the top menu bar: MY HOME> SETTINGS > DIARY SETTINGS. Then you can adjust what nutrients you track. Here’s my example:
You can also see below Nutrients is where you can change the names of your meals (some examples you can use are Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, Supplements, etc). Whatever you like to keep yourself organized.
My recommendation is for males to get between 30-40g of fiber a day (Mayo Clinic advised 38g). For women, I have recommended 20-30g in the past and that is again in line with Mayo’s recommendation of 25g.
Add the goal to your MFP (under GOALS > Custom Goals) and see how much fiber you’ve been eating. If you have been eating well, you’re probably on the right track already.
(*There are a lot of products that if you pick carefully can easily add fiber to your day. A fiber supplement is the obvious choice, but also how you pick your breads can impact fiber. There are whole-wheat tortillas with 80 cals and 6g of fiber a piece – 11g of carbohydrates overall. Just look at your labels.)
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