At the start of every New Year we often formulate a list of resolutions. Some resolutions are harder to stick to and can fizzle out come spring. Here’s one you can easily accomplish: make a resolution to add more fiber-rich foods to your diet. Fiber is key to improving your health, staying in shape, maintaining cholesterol and lowering your risk for diseases. Just follow these seven steps to effectively incorporate more fiber into your diet.
Legumes pack a lot of punch in the fiber department and a little goes a very long way. Depending on the type of bean, just one cup can make up 1/3 – 1/2 of your daily fiber needs. The easiest way to add more fiber to your diet is by eating legumes on a more regular basis. Split peas, green peas, lentils, navy beans, black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, chickpeas and edamame are all very high in fiber. Try to sprinkle beans on top of salads, snack of veggies with hummus, make beans the main ingredient in side dishes, or whip up a batch of bean soup. Note: proceed with caution and slowly increase your intake of beans because too much at once may cause gas and bloating.
Veggies are not only important for you because of the vitamins and antioxidants that they provide, but they are often fiber-rich. Some of the highest fiber vegetables are kale, spinach, collard greens, corn, artichokes, broccoli, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, sundried tomatoes, eggplants, carrots, pumpkin and sweet potatoes. With so many options, you can eat a different vegetable at every meal to increase your fiber intake. Steam or boil vegetables as much as possible to retain nutrients, or eat raw.
If you are not a huge fan of vegetables, fruits fortunately can provide you with the fiber that you need. Fruits that contain the most amount of fiber per serving are raspberries, blackberries, bananas, avocados, prunes, figs, oranges and grapefruits. Pears and apples also contain fiber, but it is mostly in the skin of the fruit so don’t peel it! Top your breakfast with some fruit, have it as an afternoon snack, or use fruit in a dessert.
4. Oats, Whole Grains and Nuts
For those that can eat gluten, adding oats and whole grains to your diet helps to increase fiber intake. If you need to give into that pasta or pizza craving, opt for whole wheat. The same principal goes for any bread so choose whole grain or oat. Whole wheat, bulgur wheat, wheat berries, barley, quinoa and oatmeal are good sources of fiber. Although these are normally seen in breakfast cereals, or ground into a flour for baking, whole grains are good fillers in salads and side dishes when mixed with other vegetables. For those that cannot eat grains due to a gluten allergy or gluten intolerance, nuts and seeds can add more fiber to your diet.
This isn’t a trick. There are simple ways to add more fiber to your baked goods that won’t make you feel as guilty when you reach for more than one. Start with a batter that includes oat or wheat flour instead of white flour. Depending on the recipe add up to a 1/4 cup of a soluble tasteless fiber powder supplement, such as Benefiber. Then add vegetables or fruits high in fiber to make whatever you are baking healthier. Some recipes to try this with are zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, banana bread, carrot cake and blackberry muffins. You can also add some nuts for even more fiber.
6. Eat Small Portions Frequently
It is important to eat fiber throughout the day in small portions. There is such a thing as too much fiber, and an overload could result rather unpleasantly. Introducing it slowly into your system and increasing portions at a rate that your body responds to is necessary when adding more fiber to your diet.
7. Water and Probiotics
Water and probiotics need to be taken in conjunction with fiber. Fiber absorbs water from your gut and can create blockage, to prevent this up your water intake. The saying is to drink eight glasses per day, which is advisable when adding more fiber to your diet. Probiotics promote growth of good bacteria in your gut. They thrive off of soluble fiber and, therefore, are twice as effective when taken with fiber-rich foods and supplements. A good gut microflora means a strong immune system and a healthier you
fiber is really great for you! So add it to that list of resolutions and make sure to eat more fiber in 2013.
Do you have other ways to add fiber to your diet? Let me know if you have any tips or delicious recipes... I love hearing new ideas!