When it comes to dietary fiber there is no controversy and no room for debate. Fiber is good and fiber is needed in your diet. More fiber. The average American undershoots the target by at least 10 grams daily. The Institute of Medicine recommends greater than 38 grams (men) and 25 grams (women) for those aged 50 or younger. It recommends 30 grams (men) and 21 grams (women) for those older than 50. The average American gets 15 grams. Why is fiber so important?
Fiber contributes to good health in many ways. It helps prevent and treat constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulosis; decreases blood cholesterol levels; and helps to control weight by adding bulk to meals without contributing calories (i.e. enhances earlier satiety). One of the newer and encouraging discoveries is fiber’s role in immune health. Fiber may help to decrease inflammation which is an underlying contributor to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. So how can you increase your fiber intake? Here are some great sources of fiber.
1. Whole grains : when it comes to bread, cereal, rice, pasta, granola bars, and crackers, go whole grain. Replace all refined (white) bread products with whole grains. Great sources of whole grains include barley, buckwheat, oats, rye flour, millet, quinoa, wild rice, wheat flour, bulgur.
2. Bran: found in many grains, bran is very rich in fiber. Sprinkle it over foods such as cereal, cookies, and salads. Different types of bran include oat, wheat, corn, rice, Fiber One bran cereal, All-Bran cereal, and Fiber One chewy bars.
3. Beans: One of the greatest sources of fiber, beans can easily be incorporated into meals or even replace meat in soups and dishes. High fiber beans include lima, fava, black, garbanzo, lentils, kidney, navy, white, french, yellow, and pinto. Most beans have about 15 grams of fiber per cup.
4. Berries: Berries contain several small seeds and therefore contain more fiber than other fruits. Berries are great to serve over cereal or oatmeal. I usually purchase frozen berries and thaw them out in the microwave. This way I am able to purchase in bulk without have to worry about them going bad before I eat them. Remember, frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh! Stock up on raspberries, blueberries, currants, strawberries, boysenberries, and blackberries.
5. Peas: Cow (blackeyes), split, green (frozen), etc. are a great source of fiber.
6. Nuts and seeds: almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, brazil, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, flaxseed (contains 8 g/oz).
7. Brassica vegetables: These include kale, cauliflower, savoy cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and red cabbage.
8. Potatoes: for the most fiber, eat the skin! This is where you find the biggest health benefits.
9. Fruit: all fruits are good sources of fiber. Again, eat the skin if possible.
Which of these can you easily incorporate into your diet? With fiber, you want to increase slowly to reduce gas. For most people, gas from increased fiber intake usually subsides if a higher fiber intake is slowly reached and maintained.