I want to emphasize fiber once again …
I’m talking about fiber from food, not supplements. It’s really difficult for women to get enough fiber from the standard American diet. We shouldn’t even be eating anything remotely similar to the standard American diet in our 40’s and beyond.
Fiber has sooo many roles in keeping us healthy as hormones shift and as we prepare our bodies for robust aging. Eating the right amount of fiber helps balance the lipid levels in your body, keeps you at a healthy weight, and makes your digestion work smoothly.
Because estrogen helps control cholesterol levels, many women see their “bad” cholesterol rise after menopause. Fiber binds to cholesterol and carries it through the GI system to be excreted. This prevents it from getting absorbed into blood vessels and creating plaques that cause heart disease.
Eating fiber also helps balance blood sugar which is an awesome thing as we battle with insulin resistance in perimenopause and menopause. Many women develop type 2 diabetes at this time.
The fiber in a salad or side of vegetables will help our body slowly digest the meal. We avoid spiking insulin and blood sugar which causes inflammation and some symptoms like hot flashes.
What is fiber?
Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and grains. It’s a type of carbohydrate that your body can’t digest. The good bugs in your gut feed on it which helps you to create a thriving microbiome. A healthy microbiome may even help beat mood swings and depression.
Remind me, where do I find sources of fiber?
Food sources of fiber come from plants. Some great sources for women are:
- Berries which are low sugar plus high fiber
- Leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards, and arugula
- Broccoli and other cruciferous veggies like cauliflower and brussels sprouts
- Beans and legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and edamame
- Nuts and seeds including flax seeds and chia seeds
- Artichoke hearts delicious in salads
So how much fiber do I need?
Most sources recommend about 25 grams of fiber for women. I encourage my clients to plan for a minimum of 35 grams per day. My experience is that this amount makes women feel their best, improves digestion, and helps manage blood sugar.
Remember to incorporate fiber-containing foods gradually over a few days to avoid gas and bloating. The happy gut bugs need to get used to your change in eating habits.
Planning for fiber in meals
As you write out your meal plans for the week, ask yourself if you’ve included some sources of fiber at each meal.
- Breakfast – add spinach to eggs or nuts and seeds to oatmeal
- Lunch – add artichoke hearts to salad or kale to soup
- Dinner – sauté mixed veggies as a side dish or stir grated vegetables into a whole grain
- Snack – use vegetable slices to scoop up guacamole or chop bite-sized pieces of veggies to make “veggie bites”
Here’s a meal plan for women over 40 with adequate fiber from a variety of plant foods.