When it comes to chili, are you team beans or team ground beef?
For many of us, the thought of adding fiber to our plates, or into our bowls, may conjure childhood memories of not being able to leave the table until we ate that pile of over-cooked broccoli.
And as a result, we limit our intake.
But fiber is the unsung hero of the nutrition world.
Fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugars. This helps keep our hunger and blood sugar levels in check. It also helps to fight off some of the most serious chronic diseases.
Fiber is a carbohydrate that comes in two forms
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found primarily in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans and seeds.
Unlike other types of carbohydrates, your body can’t digest it so it gets digested without being absorbed. It ends up in your colon, where it feeds our good-gut bacteria—and this leads to various health benefits.
There are two types of fiber. Depending on your genetic makeup, your body, and your digestive system, your body might prefer one over the other.
1. Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can help lower glucose and blood cholesterol levels. Foods with soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples and blueberries.
2. Insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, can help food move through your digestive system. This promotes regularity and helps prevent constipation. Foods with insoluble fibers include wheat, whole wheat bread, whole grain couscous, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes. 
Despite the health benefits, most of us don’t get enough fiber
Here are some general tips for increasing fiber intake. Be sure these recommendations align with your personalized nutrition report and food list:
- Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juices. (If raw fruits don’t sit well with you, try baking them. A baked apple or pear is delicious and easier to digest.)
- Replace white rice, bread, and pasta with brown rice and whole grain, nut or lentil-based alternatives.
- Choose cereals that have a whole grain as the lead ingredient.
- Snack on raw vegetables. (If you can’t tolerate raw veggies, give them a quick steam, blanch or roast for easier digestion.)
- Substitute beans or legumes for meat two to three times per week. Or if you prefer not to meat, most recipes for chili and soups can be easily adapted for vegetarians—just Google “Meatless Monday” for ideas.
- As you increase your fiber intake, be sure to increase your fluid intake to avoid constipation.
- Brussels sprouts
- Kale and spinach
- Sweet potatoes
- Dark chocolate (in moderation)
It is relatively easy and inexpensive to increase your fiber intake.
The most effective sources of fiber are the ones that are whole foods. For example, a handful of freshly picked blueberries from your local farm is preferred over highly processed blueberry jam on white toast.
Fiber fights and prevents disease
Studies out of Harvard’s School of Public Health have shown that fiber can reduce the risk of developing various conditions. These include heart disease, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, intestinal/motility disorders and constipation.
Harvard Medical School has concluded that fiber plays a role in disease prevention. According to Elisabeth Moore, a dietitian at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, fiber can be effective for our:
Fiber helps keep you regular and prevent constipation. Fiber is also beneficial to the bacteria in our gut, and it promotes a healthy environment within our gastrointestinal tract.
A high-fiber diet reduces the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed into your bloodstream. This can lower total cholesterol in the blood by specifically helping lower LDL [bad] cholesterol.
Blood sugar control
Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream to help regulate your blood sugar to avoid either high or low blood sugar.
A high-fiber diet can slow digestion, which keeps us feeling full longer. That makes it easier to keep portions smaller and manage weight.
How your genes and fiber interact
Fiber is one of the key nutrients that will be analyzed on your personalized nutrition report. Based on your genetic variants, our report will include your individual recommended fiber intake.
Ready to start eating for your genes? Take a look at a sample report, or order your personalized nutrition report.
1. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, The Nutrition Source: Fiber
2. Healthline.com, 22 High-Fiber Foods You Should Eat
3. Harvard Medical School, Surprising Sources of Dietary Fiber