Fiber in your diet is extremely important to maintain your health. Among other things, fiber-rich diets reduce the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and, most important, heart disease.
The growing awareness of fiber in your diet has spurred consumers to improve their health and well being.
Fiber: Why It’s Important
Soluble fiber, which dissolves in water, can help lower glucose levels and blood cholesterol. Excellent foods with soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples and blueberries.
There is another type — called insoluble fiber which helps food move through your digestive system, preventing constipation. Example of such foods include wheat, whole wheat bread, whole grain couscous, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Other excellent foods are onions, garlic, leeks, wheat and oats. These foods contain inulin which is extracted from chicory root, a plant that’s part of the dandelion family.
Several studies have linked inulin to weight loss and the lowering of blood sugar. It slows down appetite signals to the brain as well as slowing your stomach from emptying. This leaves you feeling fuller for a longer period of time. In addition it will keep your calorie intake down.
Fiber: Where to Find It
- Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juices.
- Replace white rice, bread and pasta with brown rice and whole grain products.
- For breakfast, choose cereals that have a whole grain as their first ingredient, or make your own bran muffins. Also, eat chopped pecans, oat flakes, chopped prunes, apples and hemp seeds.
- Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips, crackers or chocolate bars.
- Substitute beans or legumes for meat two to three times per week in things like burritos, chili and soups.
- Find a non-boring salad you enjoy eating and have it for lunch or dinner two or three times a week. And don’t forget about quick and easy stir-fries — with options like brown rice, celery, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, snow peas, sweet red peppers, pineapple and sesame seeds.
How Much Do You Need?
For people over 50, the Institute of Medicine recommends 30 grams of dietary fiber per day for men, 21 grams for women. These numbers are based on the cardio-protective amount of 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. Unfortunately, most Americans get half this amount.
Teresa Martin, a registered dietitian based in Bend, Oregon, recommends 35 to 50 grams per day in order to promote a healthy gut microbiota.
So, add fiber to your diet, and stay healthy.
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