When most think about diet and nutrition, what first comes to mind are all the things we shouldn’t eat or do. As we spring into National Nutrition month, I want to write this article with a twist and tell you the two things I find most important to add to your daily intake. Instead of trying to cut everything out of your diet, try squeezing more of these two things in to find a happier, healthier you.
Fiber is a carbohydrate that the body cannot digest. Fiber slows digestion and makes you feel fuller longer while slowing the digestion of other foods. Fiber is separated into two types: soluble and insoluble. It can help lower glucose levels, lower blood cholesterol, helps move food through your digestive system and is linked to reducing the risk of many chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, diverticular disease, and constipation. Most Americans get around 15 grams of fiber per day, but should be aiming for 30 grams per day. Natural plant foods are the best sources of fiber. Whole foods rather than fiber supplements are generally better. Fiber supplements, such as Metamucil, don’t provide the variety of fibers, vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients that foods do. A good rule of thumb would be to eat more food you have to chew with effort.
Foods high in fiber are undoubtedly good for your health, but adding too much fiber too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. Increase fiber in your diet gradually over a period of a few weeks to allow the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust. Fiber works best when accompanied by water.
Water is life. It assists every cell, tissue and organ in your body to work properly. Water is crucial to staying healthy and maintaining the function of all systems in your body including the heart, brain and muscles. You need water to eliminate toxic substances, produce digestive enzymes, maintain healthy skin, hair and organs, and to help your body absorb essential vitamins, minerals and natural sugars. Water also regulates body temperature, stimulates metabolism, lubricates joints and helps promote regularity. Staying hydrated improves physical performance and mood, helps us to think better, and reduces the appearance of aging.
There are many factors that play a role in your level of hydration: age, sex, climate, exercise, body weight, medications, electrolytes and more. If you get thirsty, you are already dehydrated. You should be drinking 2/3 of your weight in ounces each day. Don’t count on thirst to gauge your hydration and make sure to increase your water intake when performing physical activity.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with dieting and goal setting, these are the best 2 places to start. More water and more vegetables! Everybody is different, so if you are looking for more individualized help with your nutrition feel free to reach out to me at SpecialtyHealth.
Happy National Nutrition Month!
-Catie Doucette, Nutrition Health Coach