You need good carbohydrates to keep your energy up when you work out or play sports, and dietary fiber fits the bill. Twenty to 30 grams of fiber each day will keep you in top form.
Fiber helps keep your colon healthy and protects against colon cancer. Without proper digestion and regular bowel movements, you may become sluggish or develop cramps—which can really set back your athletic performance.
Fiber also helps to protect your heart by lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart disease. High-fiber carbohydrates are low-glycemic, thus they keep your blood sugars stable and aid in satiety. The more fiber you eat, the more satisfied you feel, and the less likely you are to overeat later in the day.
There are actually two types of beneficial fiber. Soluble fiber lowers blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Insoluble fiber helps your digestive system operate properly.
Sources of soluble fiber include oats, beans, peas and fruit. Insoluble fiber is found in whole wheat flour, bran, nuts and vegetables.
Here's how to get more fiber into your daily diet:
- Mix bran flakes into your smoothies.
- Snack on high-fiber fruits such as berries.
- Include a leafy green salad with one of your meals.
- Go meatless one night and choose beans or lentils for your main source of protein and fiber.
- Choose whole wheat bread, pasta or flour whenever possible.
- Eat the skin next time you have a baked potato or sweet potato.
- Snack on popcorn, which is a whole grain and fiber-based.
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