The myriad benefits of fiber are well known among nutritionists and the health-conscious alike. Dietary fiber can help promote bowel regularity, reduce cholesterol, and more. However, a lesser known benefit is that fiber can help regulate blood sugar levels. So what exactly does fiber do for the body?
Our goal is to clarify this to help you make better decisions for yourself or the blood sugar-conscious individual in your life. Understanding the integral link between fiber and blood sugar is crucial to making the right adjustments to your diet.
What is Fiber?
Although fiber is classified as a carbohydrate, it doesn't behave like other carbohydrates. Most carbs are broken down into glucose, also known as sugar molecules. However, digestive enzymes cannot break down fiber, which causes it to pass through the body while remaining mostly intact.
The recommended daily minimum for fiber intake is 25 to 35 grams for both children and adults. However, most people don't get more than 15 grams of fiber per day. Be sure to incorporate more fiber into your daily meals to maintain better overall health.
What Role Does Fiber Play in Balancing Blood Sugar?
How Fiber Works for Blood Sugar Balance
Fiber is essential to managing blood sugar levels. This is mainly due to the body's inability to break down the carbohydrate. Because fiber isn't absorbed or broken down like other carbs, it doesn't cause blood sugar to spike. Instead, it passes through the digestive system unprocessed, leaving your blood sugar at a normal, healthy level. This makes fiber a game-changer for individuals who are concerned about keeping their blood sugar within their target range.
Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber
There are two main types of fiber to include in your diet: soluble and insoluble fiber. Let's take a closer look at the key differences between the two.
Soluble fiber refers to fiber that dissolves in water and slows down the digestion process. In addition to managing blood sugar, soluble fiber is crucial to help control cholesterol levels. Common foods that contain soluble fiber are bananas, apples, avocados, Brussels sprouts, oats, black beans, lima beans, and peas.
Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water the way soluble fiber can. It usually remains intact as it passes through the digestive system. Out of the two types of fiber, insoluble fiber plays a bigger part in promoting bowel regularity and supporting blood sugar balance. Examples of foods that are good sources of insoluble fiber include nuts, seeds, bran, whole wheat flour, green beans, spinach, broccoli, and kiwi.
Best Fiber-Rich Foods for Blood Sugar Balance
Now that you know how essential fiber is to blood sugar control, you're probably wondering how you can get a head start on building a fiber-rich diet. Here are four food groups that are vital to managing blood sugar.
In addition to fiber, whole-grain foods are rich in key vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin E, iron, and magnesium. Common whole-grain foods include oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, barley, popcorn, and whole-wheat flour.
Legumes are both high in fiber and low in fat, making them a go-to staple in any diet. These foods are also excellent sources of potassium, iron, and magnesium. Examples of legumes include lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, edamame, and fava beans.
Fruits and Vegetables
You've likely heard the familiar refrain to "eat your veggies" from parents and doctors throughout your life—and for good reason. Both fruits and vegetables are high in fiber as well as a slew of other nutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium, folate, and calcium. While there are countless veggies and fruits to incorporate into your diet, some good starting points are apples, bananas, blueberries, avocados, oranges, broccoli, spinach, carrots, kale, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes.
Nuts and Seeds
It's important to include healthy fats in your diet, and nuts and seeds are a great source of this. They're also a quick and easy snack that happens to be rich in fiber. Some nuts and seeds you can introduce into your diet are almonds, cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts, macadamias, hazelnuts, pistachios, peanuts, and flaxseed.
How to Incorporate More Fiber Into Your Diet
Adopting a fiber-friendly diet isn't as difficult as it may seem. Here are some tips to help you manage your blood sugar levels by incorporating more fiber into your meals.
- Start the day off right: In terms of fiber intake, breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Make the most of it with tasty options like oatmeal with berries or avocado toast topped with chickpeas.
- Make substitutions: Many of the foods you eat every day can easily be swapped out for a fiber-rich alternative. For example, give whole wheat pasta a try instead of the regular variety, or substitute white rice for brown rice.
- Be choosy about your veggies: Not all vegetables are created equal. To get the results you want, avoid starchy vegetables like corn or potatoes. Better options include broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, and celery.
- Incorporate legumes: Beans, peas, and lentils are easy to sprinkle into your meals here and there. You can quickly add them to salads and soups, or you could even opt to puree them to create a tasty dip or spread.
- Bring snacks on the go: Whether you pack a banana in your work bag or munch on an apple in between meals, there are plenty of fiber-friendly snacks to enjoy. Good Measure bars are also an easy way to supplement your snacks throughout the day. Not only are they a tasty and nutrient-dense snack to bring on the go, but they also have little impact on blood sugar levels.
Reap the Benefits of a Fiber-Rich Diet
Fiber-rich foods offer numerous health benefits, both in terms of blood sugar control and overall well-being. To get the most out of a fibrous diet, be sure to eat a balance of foods containing soluble and insoluble fiber. It's also a good idea to focus on incorporating a variety of food groups, such as nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. As you develop your diet, always look for small ways to upgrade your food choices when the opportunity presents itself.
Now that we’ve gone through what foods have fiber, how fiber can help control blood sugar and the benefits of a fiber rich diet, you are ready to incporparte these tips to obtain a balanced diet. Our delicious, nutrient-dense snacks let you stay healthy on the go without messing with your blood sugar levels. Learn more by checking out our array of the best snacks for low blood sugar!