Fitting Fiber into your Diet
Dietary fiber is a portion of plant food that humans cannot digest. You may wonder that if we cannot digest it, how can it be healthy for us to eat? Well, since humans can't break down the fiber, the fiber stays in our digestive system and serves a specific benefit depending on what kind of fiber it is. Soluble fiber soaks up cholesterol and sugar in the gut. This may result in reduced blood cholesterol and blood sugar. Also, soluble fiber feeds the healthy gut bacteria in your digestive system. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and stays bulky in the digestive system. This is beneficial because it keeps the digestive system moving and prevents constipation.
On average, Americans eat 10-15 g of fiber per day. The USDA's recommended daily intake of fiber is 25 g for women and 38 g for men. While it may seem easier to buy a fiber supplement such as Metamucil, Citrucel, and Benefiber to bridge the gap for fiber intake, they don't provide the different types of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that whole foods do. Let's talk about some ways to increase fiber intake through the diet.
Choose whole grain options often
Whole grains contain all parts of the grain, including the husk. The husk contains fiber. Non-whole grains lose their husk during the refining process, and therefore do not contain the same fiber content. Examples of whole grains include whole-grain wheat flour, brown rice, quinoa, millet, corn, barley, and farro. Instead of buying whole grains that are unfamiliar, you can instead swap out the whole-grain version from what you are already using.
Some examples of whole grain swaps:
Brown Rice (Whole Grain)
White Bread (Non-whole grain)
Whole Grain Bread (Whole Grain)
White Bread (Non-whole grain)
Add legumes to meals/recipes you already use
Legumes are a great source of fiber and can be a delicious and nutritious addition to your meals. Some examples of legumes are beans, soybeans, peanuts, peas, and lentils. Here are some ideas on how to add some of these legumes to everyday meals:
- Add some beans or lentils to the soup
- Spread some hummus (which is made from chickpeas) on bread for a sandwich
- Add peanut butter to oatmeal, toast, or fruit
- Toss in some edamame (soybeans) or tofu (made from soybeans) in a stir-fry
- Add some chickpeas to a salad or ricebowl
- Spread some black beans in a quesadilla
Add an additional fruit or vegetable to every meal
Fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber. Increasing the amount of vegetables and fruits consumed will not only increase your fiber intake, but also your vitamin, mineral, and phytochemical intake. Some fruits and vegetables that are especially high in fiber include broccoli, avocados, berries, apples, raisins, and prunes. A good way to increase your fiber intake would be to add an additional fruit or vegetable to every meal. For example, if you usually eat a peanut butter sandwich, a banana, and some carrots for lunch, you could add red bell pepper to the meal.