Despite being associated with frequent trips to the restroom and not-so yummy foods, the importance of eating fiber as part of our daily diet simply cannot be ignored. The benefits of an efficient functioning bowel aside, a diet that’s high in fiber can also bring down the risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart disease. The average American needs at least 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber every day. Fiber consumption, however, is currently at an all-time low, with very few Americans meeting the daily recommended intake – and this increases their chances of high cholesterol, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, and even colon cancer.
What many of us don’t know is that fiber is one of the easiest nutrients to incorporate into our diet, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stick to your granny’s wrinkly-skinned prunes or keep gnawing on cardboard.
Here are some delicious ways in which you can boost your daily fiber intake while keeping the flavor and variety in your diet alive.
5 Delicious Tips To Help You Boost Your Daily Fiber Intake
1. Substitute White Bread With Whole Wheat Bread
Everyone loves a good, fat sandwich, either as part of a meal or as a mid-afternoon snack. The next time you make yourself a sandwich, don’t reach out for that loaf of white bread; instead, try some whole grain bread. Whole grain foods are the best kind of natural dietary fiber you can eat. Unlike refined carbohydrates like white bread, white sugar, and white rice, whole grains come with the kernel’s fiber-rich outer shell, also known as bran. There are more than 7 grams of fiber in half a cup of whole wheat flour which means it’s going to give your stomach lots of work to do.
The next time you go grocery shopping, look for a mention of “whole wheat” at the top of the ingredients list. You could also look for ingredients like hard red winter wheat, triticale, barley, rye, oats, buckwheat, brown rice, oatmeal, and millets. which definitely ought to be mentioned on the label if it is indeed, whole grain. Beware of imposter brands that try to pass off ordinary bread as “whole wheat” or “whole grain”. If you find any of these attractive labels mentioning only 1 gram of dietary fiber, the bread is mostly made from white flour, not whole wheat.
Yes, whole grain bread might have a grainy texture which your taste buds may not welcome as warmly as it did the soft white bread variety. The trick here is to really be generous with your filling so that the bread doesn’t taste as dry or grainy. Use a variety of meats, vegetables, and homemade dressings and you will be surprised to find how well the flavors go with the chewy, rough texture of your whole grain bread.
2. Stay Away From Boxed Sugary Cereals
Yes, even if the box reads “whole-grain” or “fiber enriched”. The label may claim to provide you with 23 percent of your daily recommended intake of fiber, while slyly leaving out the fact that it is actually made of high fructose corn syrup, sugar, and a whole lot of other preservatives and chemicals which give the cereal its long lasting shelf life.
Bran flakes and whole grain cereals, on the other hand, come jam-packed with fiber, with almost 5 grams in a single 3/4th cup serving. When buying whole grain cereal, ensure that the first ingredient reads “whole grains” and make sure that sugar’s not lurking too close behind.
If you’re new to these healthier cereals, chances are you will find it hard to swallow. And after all, one can’t be expected to look forward to an unappetizing breakfast. There are, however, plenty of ways to boost the sweetness levels in your whole grain cereal – you can use your favorite fruit, organic honey, or even some brown sugar. You could even add nuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg to add an extra punch.
3. Eat Your Beans
They might look tiny, but beans and legumes are the easiest and one of the healthiest ways to get more fiber into your system. A half cup serving of cooked beans and lentils contains about 6 or 7 grams of fiber. The best part when it comes to beans is that you’re left spoilt for choice. Choose from navy beans that will fight cholesterol for you, magnesium-rich black beans that help boost your brain power, lentils that will keep cancer at bay, and soybeans that will help you build muscles.
Beans and lentils can be easily added to just about anything. Heat them as a side, use them in soups, add them to your salads, or simply use them as a healthy substitute for meat. Whatever way you choose to eat them, beans will give your body a healthy boost of fiber, protein, and heart-friendly fats that will keep you energized all day.
4. Make Wise Use Of Your Fruits And Vegetables
You may turn up your nose at fruits and vegetables since they are notoriously known for being “diet” foods. These are, however, must-eat staples that should be a part of your diet, even if you’re at a healthy weight. With their high fiber and low-calorie content, fruits and vegetables, when used wisely can make any meal enjoyable for your palate.
A single cup of fresh red raspberries delivers a whopping 8 grams of fiber while blackberries come packed with almost 7.5 grams. Prunes, pears, and apples all come with a healthy amount of fiber – about 4 grams per serving. If you’re bored of eating fruits by themselves, use them as toppings for your cereals, or add them to smoothies; the natural sugars in them make them excellent substitutes for regular white sugar which isn’t even half as healthy.
Vegetables may rank a little lower when it comes to the fiber scale but are still great fiber sources. ½ a cup of baked corn squash ½ a cup of cooked artichoke hearts come with about 4.5 grams of fiber, while a baked potato with the skin, comes with about 4 grams. You can also get 2 grams of fiber in a single serving of healthy greens like asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, or lettuce.
5. Supplement, But Only As A Last Resort
If you’ve maintained a log of what you’ve eaten, and still find yourself falling short of the daily recommended intake for fiber, talk to your doctor about supplements. Fiber supplements are available in a wide variety of biscuits, capsules, and even drink mixes and will usually range from roughly 4-10 grams of fiber per serving.
Keep in mind though – fiber supplements can never be complete substitutes for natural healthy sources that your body needs. Therefore, do not make the mistake of thinking you can pop four supplement pills a day and stop your natural fiber intake completely.
Things To Keep In Mind When It Comes To Fiber
Follow these basic thumb rules to help your body get the best out of your natural sources of fiber.
- Always choose fresh fruit and vegetables over juice.
- To get a larger dose of fiber and nutrients, eat the skin of your fruits and vegetables, but make sure to wash them properly first.
- Make bran and whole grain bread a part of your daily diet.
- Keep yourself well hydrated when loading up on fiber – this will help stave off indigestion and bloat.
- As you build your fiber intake, remember to bring down your rate of consumption of processed foods.
- Always try to meet your body’s fiber requirements with natural, organic foods rather than synthetic supplements.
- A sudden boost of fiber over a short period of time could give you diarrhea, bloating, constipation, and gas. Therefore, make sure to add fiber to your diet slowly and steadily over a recommended period of three weeks to give your digestive system time to adjust to the fiber in your meals.