THE SECRET OF FIBER

Fiber is not exactly seen as a “glamorous” nutrient in the world of food … its pseudo name is roughage, and its claim to fame is that it helps with constipation and regulating bowel movements. If you ask me, this nutrient sounds like the geeky, awkward relative of Protein, which is known for building and repairing-muscles. However, fiber has unique qualities unmatched by any other nutrient. Fiber can help manage weight, reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes, lower the risk of heart disease, protect against certain cancers, and promote intestinal health1.

Most people who consume a diet largely comprised of “western” foods under-consume the daily recommended 25 and 38 grams of fiber per day for adult women and men, respectively2. The general rule of thumb to increase fiber intake is to incorporate more fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains into your diet. Below are specific ways to incorporate fiber throughout the day to help you reach your daily target:

  • Start your morning with a high fiber breakfast cereal such as oats or bran flakes
  • Add oats or bran to meatballs, meatloaf, casseroles, etc.
  • Thicken soups, stews, and sauces with oats
  • Eat more beans by adding them to soups, salads, stews, and casseroles
  • Top off food with wheat germ
  • Switch to whole-grains such as whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, barley, spelt, bulgar, and millet
  • Eat a serving of fruit and vegetable with every meal, aiming for a minimum of 5 servings each day
  • Leave the skin on fruits and vegetables, if edible
  • Add nuts, seeds, raisins, bananas, and/or berries to yogurt

Before you start your quest to increase your fiber intake, remember these three tips:

  1. Increase your intake slowly – your body needs to get used to the change and increasing fiber consumption too quickly can cause bloating, gas, and/or diarrhea;
  2. Increase your fluid intake – drinking too little water can cause constipation; and
  3. Spread out your fiber consumption throughout the day rather than consuming it all in one sitting – it might save you from experiencing unwelcomed abdominal cramps and visits to the restroom.

If you ask me, fiber is one of my favorite nutrients because it is a nutrient I feel I get my money’s worth in staving off a laundry list of diseases, all while maintaining impeccable intestinal health. Hope you find a new appreciation for fiber as you experiment with increasing your intake. Fiber-on!

  1. Cheung, Lilian (ed). “Fiber: Start Roughing It!” The Nutrition Source. Harvard School of Public Health, n.d. Web, 13 May. 2013. (2013, May 5). http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/fiber-full-story/.
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010.

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