9 Ways to Get the Health Benefits of Fiber

bread-1426350-mThe average American is not eating enough fiber. In fact, most of us get less than half of the recommended allowance of approximately 25 to 35 grams of fiber we need every day.

What is fiber? Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables and grain products. Your body cannot digest fiber, and it passes through your body largely intact.

Why are most of us lacking in fiber? We eat far too many highly processed foods. The refining process takes out the natural fiber found in plants. We also consume a large amount of animal products, which all contain zero fiber.

These foods make up a large part of our diets and are poor sources of fiber:

  • Refined grains – commonly in most bread, pizza dough, crackers, dry cereal and pasta
  • Sugars – found in soda, baked goods, candy and other processed goods
  • Animal products – includes meat, chicken, fish, milk, cheese and butter
  • Oils – in the form of salad dressings and fried foods

Why do we need fiber? The numerous benefits of fiber include its ability to stabilize blood sugar, reduce cholesterol, decrease the risk of colon cancer, prevent constipation and support a healthy body weight. In addition, foods high in fiber are often high in mineral and vitamin content. Fiber may also prevent or control diabetes.

Here are 9 ways you can add more fiber to your daily diet:

Start your day with whole grains
Look for whole-grain cereal or oatmeal with 3 or more grams of fiber per serving. You can also add fruit to your breakfast to get even more fiber.

Fresh fruit
Any type of fresh fruit is a healthy snack. But when it comes to getting in your daily fiber, not all fruit is created equal. For high fiber fruits, try pears, raspberries, blackberries, bananas and blueberries. Apples with the skin on also provide high fiber.

Dried fruit
Most dried fruits are loaded with fiber. Try having a handful of dried figs, prunes, dates, raisins or apricots as a snack. You can also chop them up and add to cereal or even as salad toppings.

Vegetables
Vegetables can be a great source of fiber, too. High-fiber veggies include spinach, corn, broccoli, potatoes and artichoke hearts. All vegetables have some fiber. Too boost your daily fiber, add vegetables to sandwiches, pastas, omelets and soups. You can also add vegetables to salads or other meals.

Nuts and seeds
You may be afraid to eat nuts and seeds because they can be high in calories and fat. Yet, nuts and seeds are a great source of fiber and other nutrients. Sunflowers seeds and almonds are especially high in fiber. You can add nuts and seeds to salads or a cup of yogurt. You can enjoy a handful of mixed nuts for an afternoon snack.

Beans
Beans are high in fiber, full of protein and low in fat. Try eating beans at least twice a week to boost your fiber. You can use beans in soups, stews, rice and pasta dishes, salads and casseroles.

Peas and legumes
Lentils and peas are related to beans and are high in dietary fiber and protein while also being low in fat. Lentils are great for soups and stews. Cooked chickpeas can be added to salads or made into hummus.

Whole-grain bread and crackers
Whole grains include the entire grain and give you all the nutrients of the grain. If you’re eating a sandwich, choose whole grain bread. Try dipping whole-grain crackers in a healthy spread or eating them with your favorite salad.

Drink water!
Water and fiber work as a team in your body. Water is absorbed by fiber and helps waste products move more freely through the digestive track.

Also be cautious about adding fiber too quickly. Introduce fiber to your diet gradually so your body can adjust to the increased intake over time. Exercise can also encourage the movement of fiber through your digestive system.

Eating a diet high in fiber combined with other healthy foods can help improve your overall health and well-being. So, add more fiber to your diet today!

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