At a time when a lot of us are stuck at home, we may be taking a closer look at our diets to try to stay healthy. When it comes to preventing diseases as well as maximizing current health, fiber is an often overlooked nutrient, even though its benefits cannot be disputed. According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, individuals whose diets contain more fiber have less chronic diseases. While it may more commonly be associated with digestive health and processes, fiber actually plays a role in lowering the risk for many diseases and conditions, such as:
Certain types of cancers such as gastric or colon cancer
And that's not all! Adequate dietary fiber intake is also associated with other health benefits such as:
Lowering high cholesterol levels
Decreasing the amount of food you consume at meals
Helping with reflux
Boosting your immune system
So how much fiber should we be eating? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that women consume 25 grams per day and men consume 38 grams per day. Here are some food sources you can easily incorporate to meet your daily fiber requirements.
Whole grains are a fantastic way to get your fiber in. White breads or refined carbohydrates have had much of the fiber removed during processing, whereas whole grains are less processed so will typically contain more fiber. Look for labels that say “100% whole wheat” or “100% whole grain" and aim for at least half of your grain intake from whole grains.
So how much fiber do whole grains provide? One serving of whole wheat bread (one slice), instant oatmeal (one packet) and grains like barley or quinoa (1/2 cup) all provide about 3 grams of fiber each. Popcorn provides a little more fiber with about 4 grams in three cups, and whole wheat pasta provides about 6 grams in a two-ounce serving. High fiber cereals containing oat bran or wheat bran may contain between 10 to 14 grams of fiber per serving.
Fruits & Vegetables
When choosing high fiber foods, do not forget your fruits and vegetables. All fruits and vegetables contain fiber and are great snacks or additions to any meal. Some especially high-fiber sources include: apples and berries, which provide about 4 grams of fiber per serving, avocados, which provide about 5 grams of fiber per serving, and pears and persimmons, which provide about 6 grams of fiber per serving.
Nuts are a particularly great food choice because not only are they a good source of protein and healthy fats, but they also contain fiber. This power-packed snack helps promote satiety so even a small serving can provide energy and keep you full until meal time. There are about 2 to 3 grams of fiber in just one ounce of pistachios, almonds, pecans or peanuts.
Just like nuts, seeds are also high in healthy fats and fiber. A tablespoon of flax seeds contains 3 grams of fiber while a tablespoon of chia seeds contains a whopping 5 grams of fiber. Add flax seeds to your baked goods, oatmeal or yogurt. Chia seeds are fantastic in smoothies or soaked in non-dairy milk to make chia pudding. Sunflower seeds make for a delicious snack as well.
Beans are a great source of both fiber and protein and can be eaten in a variety of ways. Whether you eat them as a side, in a soup or stew, or as a meat replacement such as bean burgers, they can be a great addition to any meal. In just one half cup of black beans, kidney beans or lentils, there are 7 to 8 grams of fiber. Just keep in mind that it is helpful to start with just one serving size of beans as some people may experience gas or bloating when consuming too much.
Enjoy your food with every FIBER of your being! Whether you plan to load your plate up with fruits and vegetables, binge on beans or go nuts with nuts, enjoy your fiber-filled foods with the knowledge that you are nourishing your body. Keep in mind that fiber intake should be gradually increased to allow your body to adjust. This is because adding too much fiber suddenly can cause some digestive discomfort. It's also important to remember to properly hydrate as well to help prevent issues like constipation.
Learn more about healthy eating and disease prevention and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.
Written by Jennifer Cassidy, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern