Fitting in fiber

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Fitting in fiber

Fiber is a substance found in plant foods. Most people eat much less than the recommended 25-35 grams of fiber per day. But getting enough dietary fiber is important because it does all of the following:

  • “Cleans out” the intestines and promotes digestive health
  • Lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol 
  • Lowers blood sugar
  • Increases feeling of fullness after a meal and slower emptying of the stomach, which both curb overeating
  • Lowers risk for diseases like heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers

Here are some recommendations for fitting enough fiber into your day:

  • Go slow. Surprising your digestive tract with more fiber than it is used to can lead to an upset stomach. Start increasing your fiber intake by a few grams per day until you work up to your goal. 
  • Start your day off right. Oatmeal and high-fiber, whole grain breakfast cereals are some of the best sources of soluble fiber. Add dried fruit or nuts for some texture and additional fiber. 
  • Consider your sources. Some of the best sources of fiber are lentils, split peas, and beans (specifically pinto, black, and navy beans)  
  • Go with the grain. Refined grains and processed foods have been stripped of fiber during processing. Skip the white rice, pasta, and flour and choose the 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat options instead. Barley, bulgur, and bran are also rich in fiber.
    • Grain tip #1: Sneak fiber into your recipes. Add crushed bran cereal, unprocessed wheat bran, or ground flaxseed to baked products such as meatloaf, muffins, casseroles, cakes, and cookies. Use bran products as a crunchy topping for casseroles, salads, or cooked vegetables. 
    • Grain tip #2: Bake with whole grain flours. Substitute whole grain flour for half or all of the white flour when baking bread. Since it is heavier, use a bit more yeast or let the dough rise longer. When using a recipe with baking powder, increase it by 1 teaspoon for every 3 cups of whole grain flour. 
  • Veg out. Vegetables (and fruits!) are an excellent source of fiber. Leave the skin on (when appropriate, of course) to get the most nutritional bang for your buck. 
  • Make snacks count. Munch on fruits, vegetables, low-fat popcorn, and whole-grain crackers between meals for an extra dose of fiber in your day. 
  • Supplement if needed. Though the best way to get fiber is from your diet, a supplement can be helpful if you aren’t able to reach your goal. Check with your health care provider to see if this is right for you. 
  • Remember to stay hydrated. Fiber absorbs water, so when you increase your fiber intake, it is important to drink more water as well.

Additional Resources

American Council on Exercise

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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