Friday, November 21, 2014

Fiber-Packed Foods to Eat

artichokes can be a good source of fiber
Artichokes are a great source of fiber.
Image: Shutterstock
Getting enough fiber is no joke. Besides enabling efficient bowel movements, a high-fiber diet can also reduce the risk of stroke, hypertension, and heart disease. But strangely enough, less than three percent of Americans are meeting the recommended fiber intake.

Fiber is something the body needs but can never actually digest. It comes in two varieties – soluble and insoluble – and most plant-based foods contain a mixture of the two. When you ingest soluble fiber, it turns into gel in the stomach and will slow down digestion, which lowers cholesterol and blood glucose. When your body is processing insoluble fiber, it remains unchanged all the way to the colon, making waste heavier and softer so it can run through the intestines. Neither is ever absorbed into the body.

So how much are we supposed to eat? It is recommend for men to under 50 to eat 38 grams of fiber each day and women to consume 25 grams. Adults over 50 need slightly less. So where can you find all this fiber?

Blackberries and other dark berries are a good source of fiber
Eat blackberries or other dark berries to get your fiber in!
Image: Shutterstock
Legumes and beans are a great source of fiber. Try split peas, lentils, black beans, or lima beans. Also, many vegetables contain a good amount of fiber. Try artichokes, broccoli and Brussels sprouts for about 5-10 grams of fiber per cup. Dark leafy greens, carrots, corn, potatoes with the skin on, and okra are also great vegetable options if you’re looking to incorporate more fiber into your diet. Many fruits also contain a lot of fiber, which can be most readily found in darker berries like raspberries and blackberries, along with avocados and, somewhat surprisingly, apples, pears, and oranges.

When most of us think fiber, we think grains. The highest packed grains with fiber are bran flakes, whole-wheat pasta, pearled barley and oatmeal with 4-7 grams each. Nutritionists often suggest avoiding refined grains such as white flower, white bread, white rice, and white pasta. Instead, replace these with more nutritious and fiber-packed whole grains for better results.

How do you plan on incorporating more fiber into your diet?