By now the secret is out. Fiber keeps you -um- regular. But fiber gets a bad rap because it evokes images of your grandma’s prunes and weird, grainy orange drinks. Not so yummy. It’s no wonder that according to National Health and Nutrition Examination survey (NHANES), 9 out of 10 Americans aren’t getting enough fiber. It may not have the most glamorous role in a healthy diet but trust me, it's important. So let's take this intriguing lesson from the top.
There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. The basic rule of thumb is soluble fiber dissolves in water and insoluble fiber does not. Soluble fiber is attracted to water, so it’s best to drink lots of water in order for it to work most effectively. When it's ingested, the fiber pulls in water from the body, forming a gel which pulls out cholesterol and delays digestion. By slowing the rate at which the stomach empties, soluble fiber gives the body a better chance to control blood sugar levels. This has been shown to be extremely beneficial for those with insulin sensitivity and diabetes. Delayed stomach emptying from the ingestion of fiber is also useful in keeping you fuller for longer periods of time. Recent research shows that even a small increase (5 to 10 grams) of soluble fiber per day can reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) by 5%. Soluble fiber can be found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, bran, nuts and seeds.
Insoluble fiber consists mostly of compounds found in plant cells and bran layers in cereal. They play a vital role in keeping your gastrointestinal tract on track. Because they do not dissolve in water, they pass through the digestive system intact and relatively quickly. This in turn promotes regularity by stimulating the movement of the intestinal muscles, pushing out waste and cleaning out your intestines. Insoluble fiber can be found in the skins of fruits such as apples and pears, and in root and leafy vegetables.
Use these three meal ideas below to get you started! Just remember, work yourself up to a high-fiber diet and drink at least one full glass of water with each meal to avoid stomach discomfort, cramping and bloating.
A guaranteed way to amp up your intake is to start your day with a ½ cup of oatmeal, topped with 3 tablespoons of GG Bran Sprinkles and a ½ cup of sliced strawberries. That’s 11 grams of fiber for less than 200 calories! This breakfast is sure to get you through until lunchtime without a case of the mid morning munchies.
Take your typical lunchtime sandwich order and kick it up with some fiber! Switch to 100% whole grain bread, top turkey with spinach, tomatoes and sprouts and swap chips for carrots and cucumbers. By making these 3 small changes to your sandwich, you can add 5 to 7 grams of fiber without sacrificing taste. When packing lunch for myself or my family, I rely on Trader Joe’s 100% Mulitgrain Fiber bread. One slice has 6 grams of fiber and only 100 calories.
Change up the typical green starter salad by adding some extra ingredients. Toss in ¼ cup of navy beans and you’ll add 4 to 5 grams of fiber. Add in hearts of palm, which is the tender cord taken from the center of a cabbage palm, as an easy way to increase fiber content. They typically are sold canned, so remember to rinse thoroughly to lower the sodium content before loading them onto your salad. One cup contains 4 grams of fiber and less than 50 calories!
For an entrée, cook up a cup and a half of Al Dente BonaChia Fettuccine and toss with marinated artichoke hearts. Instead of refined white flour, this pasta is made with chia grain and provides 4 grams of fiber per serving. By adding in a half cup of artichokes you’ll amp up the fiber content by 7 grams. This delicious pasta dish is only 300 calories and packs in 11 grams of fiber!
The moral of the story? Fiber is very important to health, digestion and weight loss. But there’s no need to rush out and buy a chalky powder or supplement to increase your fiber intake. It’s just as easy to obtain fiber through food, and so much tastier!