Everything You Need to Know About Fiber

Whole grain breads contain more fiber than white, check the label and choose one that has at least 2.5 grams per slice.  Photo By Elle

Whole grain breads contain more fiber than white, check the label and choose one that has at least 2.5 grams per slice.
Photo By Elle

Fiber and the health benefits from getting the recommended daily intake have been in the news for quite sometime, and yet, the average American gets less than 3% of the recommended daily  allowance. The Dietary Guidelines set forth by the Federal Government advise men to get 38 grams of fiber daily and women 25, if you’re over fifty the intake is reduced to 34 grams for men and 21 for women. Benefits include helping you maintain  a healthy weight, lowering your risk of heart disease, lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes, lower risk of stroke and hypertension.

The best way to increase your fiber intake is gradually over a week or two depending  upon where you’re starting from. So first determine where you are. To do this, you’ll have to read labels and use a resource such as Calorie King to determine your current daily fiber intake. Once you have this base line number, add five grams of fiber per day until you reach the daily recommended amount. Be sure to drink plenty of water as you increase your fiber. The minimum amount of water is eight ounces a day, I try to drink my body weight in ounces each day.

Two types of fiber

Fiber is defined as either soluble or insoluble. Your body needs both kinds and many foods have some of both in varying degrees. Soluble fiber is fiber that dissolves in water. Soluble fiber helps to regulate blood sugar, lower LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol) and lower your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Foods that contain soluble fiber are beans, peas, nuts, seeds, strawberries, and apples to name just a few.

Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, pretty much leaving the body in the same form that it entered. Insoluble fiber helps to keep you regular, prevents constipation, and can lower your chances of getting diverticular disease. Insoluble fiber is what your grandmother may have referred to as ‘roughage’. Foods that contain this type of fiber include grapes, whole grains, carrots, cabbage, zucchini, dark leafy greens and many more.

Fiber in general lowers your risk for certain cancers and foods high in fiber keep you feeling full longer, allowing you eat less between meals.

Fiber for Health

Now you know the types of fiber and what it can do for you, but as with everything that’s good for us, we’re usually at loss when it comes to adding more fiber to our diet without having to completely change our diets. Don’t worry, eating more fiber doesn’t mean eating weird foods or completely changing your eating habits.

An easy way to get more fiber is to switch from white bread, pasta, rice, and flour to their whole wheat versions.  Many delicious and flavorful breads are now available that contain several grams of fiber per serving. Read the label and don’t be afraid to try something new. Pasta in the whole wheat version is a bit more chewy than the white pasta you are probably used to. I recommend that you mix the two for a while to get used to the texture and taste and then slowly increase the amount of wheat pasta until you’re eating 100% wheat.  Brown rice has a nutty taste and is, again more chewy than white rice. The reason for the chewy consistency is that the whole kernel of rice, or wheat, is intact and the outer shell which contains the nutrients is chewy–this is removed in white wheat and rice products. I prefer wild rice blends. The taste is mild while still providing fiber. Try several different types and brands until you discover one you like.

Some High Fiber Foods to Add to Your Diet

  • Split peas                    16.3 grams per cup
  • Lintels                         15.6 grams per cup
  • Black Beans                15 grams per cup
  • Artichokes                  10.2 grams per cup
  • Peas                               8.8 grams per cup
  • Broccoli                        5.1 grams per cup
  • Brussel Sprouts          4.1 grams per cup
  • Avocado                        6.7 grams per cup
  • Pears                              5.5 grams per cup
  • Bran Flakes                   7   grams per cup
  • Whole Wheat Pasta     6.3 grams per cup
  • Pearled Barley              6  grams
  • Oatmeal                         4 grams

 

Give it a try for two months: you’ll feel better, will be eating more healthily, and who know you may just drop a few pounds.

Bon Appetite,

Elle

 

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