Fiber intake is important for heart health as well as bowel regularity. In her newest blog, holistic pharmacist Sherry Torkos, co-author of Saving Women’s Hearts, explains that fiber:
1. Helps promote healthy cholesterol levels, particularly the LDL (bad) cholesterol.
2. Helps support normal, healthy blood pressure.
3. Supports healthy blood glucose levels. This is important for people at risk of heart disease, in addition to those who are diabetic.
4. Helps with weight management by promoting satiety (feeling of fullness), reducing cravings and helping to reduce food intake
The Institute of Medicine recommends 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams a day for men. For those over age 50, the requirements drop to 21 and 30 grams respectively. You can calculate how much fiber you are getting by referring to this chart from the National Fiber Council.
Some types of dietary fiber act as prebiotics, which feed the beneficial probiotics in your gut. Food sources of prebiotics include inulin (chicory root and Jerusalem artichoke), soybeans and unrefined wheat and barley. Partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum, available in supplement form, is also a good soluble fiber and prebiotic.
If you are not getting enough fiber in your diet, you may want to boost your intake through supplements. Here are a few things Torkos suggests that you consider:
• Fiber powders provide more fiber per serving compared to capsules. They are also more cost effective
• Look for a fiber that mixes well with water.
• Take fiber supplements with plenty of water. That helps improve tolerability and deliver the fiber to the colon, where it works best.
• Torkos’ top fiber supplement pick is Sunfiber. It is made from partially hydrolyzed guar gum through a slow fermentation process which leads to better tolerability (less gas and bloating). Plus, it is clear when mixed with water, and it is tasteless and odorless so you can also mix it with your favorite beverage.
Remember to gradually increase your fiber intake to allow your bowels time to adjust.