Do you know how to get more fiber into your diet?
Where do you get your fiber? You probably know you should be eating more fiber; we hear it all the time. Its benefits are numerous and well-documented: it reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, helps manage weight, balances blood sugar and keeps you regular. It can even boost your energy and give your skin that luminous glow. But how do you know if you’re getting enough? And what are the best sources?
Magazine ads and TV commercials can be so misleading. They perpetuate the notion that fiber products are bland and come with a cardboard texture. Unless, of course, you discover their alternative: a sugar- and additive-laden cereal or fiber bar that will tempt your taste buds and let you believe you’ve made a healthy choice.
Let’s take a look at the ingredient list of a FiberPlus chewy bar. Bold lettering on its package touts the “35% of your daily fiber” that one bar provides, but the finer print reveals so much more. Here you will find sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and maltodextrin all in the first 10 ingredients. Even top-selling Metamucil contains aspartame and artificial flavors and colors. Of course, all this sugar and artificial flavoring will make these products taste great, but who said natural sources of fiber can’t be delicious too?
Basically, fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods and all plant foods contain some amount. Fiber absorbs water in the intestines and swells, which increases bulk, forms stool and helps keep your digestive tract moving. The hard fibrous bits of insoluble fiber “scrub” the intestinal wall and keep your colon clean. These actions promote healthy elimination which in turn will maximize nutrient absorption, support weight loss, and reduce the risks of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Recommended daily intake of fiber for an adult ranges from 25-38 grams per day. The average North American consumes less than half of that. Sadly, people often look for a quick fix in the form of laxatives or fiber supplements. The real solution is to increase your intake of plant foods. Whole food sources are always preferred as they will contain the minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients that supplements will lack. Getting enough fiber isn’t as hard (or as bland) as you might think. On the contrary, it’s about color, flavor, variety!
It’s easy: start your day off right with a warm bowl of steel-cut oatmeal (8g) and a half cup of berries (4g), or a breakfast smoothie including 1 cup of frozen fruit (5-8g) and 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds (4g).
More tips to increase your daily fiber:
- choose whole fruit over fruit juice
- add more beans and legumes to your diet: toss ½ cup of chickpeas into your salad (6 grams) or enjoy some lentil soup for lunch (12 grams)
- instead of mayonnaise or cheese, substitute hummus, guacamole or black bean spread on your whole grain bread or crackers
- replace white rice with brown rice, barley or quinoa
- you can never go wrong by snacking on a handful of almonds, walnuts, dates, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds…experiment and create your own yummy trail mix
- make sure your dinner plate is at least half filled with a rainbow-colored assortment of veggies every night
Read more about healthy, fiber-rich snacks
Remember that optimal nutrition won’t come from a package or a bar. You’ll never beat the nutrient value and delicious flavors of natural nutrition.
Image: Abd allah Foteih