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Fiber Facts: Why Should I Care?

April 26, 2010

The other day I saw an add on TV for a fiber supplement that can be mixed in with a glass of water. I was intrigued enough to try such a product as “invisible, tasteless fiber”. When mixing in the powder with water, the mixture turned slightly cloudy. It also tasted like chalk. So why would people choose to rely on these unappetizing fiber supplements as their main source of fiber? The truth is that with a diet based mainly on over-processed foods, it is difficult for most Americans to eat the necessary 25-30g of fiber through it’s natural sources.

Eating fiber has many health benefits that are often overlooked. A diet that is rich in fiber can boost overall health by lowering a person’s BMI (body mass index) keeping their weight in check. This is because it helps to increase satiability by reducing the rate at which foods pass through the digestive tract.

Studies have shown that fiber-rich diets can also minimize risk for certain diseases. In a study containing data from ten European countries, it was found that people who made smart decisions about fiber intake has a 40% less chance of getting colon cancer. Fiber can also help to regulate the amount blood glucose and insulin at healthy levels, thus lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Diets that are high in fiber can also help to protect against heart disease, one of the main killers in America today. This is because fiber can help protect against the progression of atherosclerosis, plaque buildup on arterial walls. Fiber can also help to regulate the amount of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol without decreasing the amount of HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

So how can we get more fiber in our diet without sacrificing taste? Here are 5 delicious food types that will help increase fiber intake:

1. Bran. Bran is the outer coating of seeds and can be found in whole grain products. This is perhaps one of the most abundant sources of fiber if eaten raw (it can have up to 22g of fiber in just 1oz of corn bran!). A common and flavorful way to prepare bran is in muffin form. Prepare your muffin batter as per usual and add in 1 1/2 cups of all bran cereal. Spice it up with cinnamon or nutmeg and for a sweeter kick add in some cherries, raisins, and apple bits!

2. Legumes. Beans really are the magical fruit as they are rich in not only fiber, but also in protein, lysine, vitamins, and minerals! Beans are also quite versatile in preparation for eating. They can be eaten raw, cooked as a side dish, integrated within your favorite soup, smashed to make hummus (my favorite!), with salads, and they can also be made into vegetarian- and vegan-friendly main dishes such as burger patty substitutes.

3. Green. Any naturally green vegetable, or really any vegetable for that matter, is guaranteed to have substantial amounts of fiber. Yes, you can eat the traditional salad with oil and vinegar dressing for minimal fat intake, but why not combine your vegetables with something tastier like peanut butter or hummus? This will let you get your fiber and your protein all in one healthy snack!

4. Fruity Delights. Fruit is a natural and tasty source of fiber. Use fruit to add a touch of sweet or citrus to your salad, create a trail mix with dried fruits and nuts, or just enjoy the rich tastes of natural fruits on their own! But beware, in order to get the fiber from fruits, you must eat the fruit, not just drink it’s juice.

5. Make it Nutty! Nuts of all shapes and sizes contain considerable amounts of fiber for your diet. Sprinkle your choice of sliced almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, or any other type of nut on your favorite foods such as yogurt, granola, salads, and even desserts like cakes for an instant shot of dietary fiber!

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