Fiber is one of those ever elusive nutrients. Most of us don’t know much about it or what we should be doing to make sure we get enough of it. Well, rest easy, it’s not as difficult as you might think to increase your fiber intake.
Why do you need fiber?
You need it for a number of reasons: it aids in digestion, has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels, prevents constipation and it helps reduce your calorie intake. Fiber slows down the rate that foods pass through your digestive system which keeps you feeling full and helps you eat less. Increased fiber intake has also been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes.
How do you get more of it in your diet?
It doesn’t take much actually. Here are a few simple steps that will increase the fiber in your diet:
Eat More Fruit
Fruits are a natural and excellent source of fiber. Slice up a banana or strawberries to put on top of your favorite cereal, have a fresh fruit parfait or fruit salad for dessert after dinner. It’s an easy and tasty way to incorporate fiber into your diet.
Switch to Whole Grain
Whole grains are just better for you anyway but it’s also a simple way to boost your fiber. Switch to whole wheat bread, use brown rice instead of white and try substituting whole wheat pasta for the regular stuff. You could even use whole grain cereals for your fruity breakfast for a double dose in the morning. To give you an idea of how this can help, a slice of white bread contains .5 grams of fiber while an equivalent sized slice of wheat bread contains 2 grams.
Snack on Veggies
Toss out the chips and crackers and give vegetables a try. Raw vegetables are a great snack and they’re loaded with fiber. Try broccoli, carrots, cauliflower or even tomato wedges with some low fat ranch dressing.
Beans, Beans, the Magical Food.
Beans are an often overlooked fiber source and they’re so versatile that you can add them to just about any meal. Make bean burritos on Southwestern night, add kidney beans to your favorite chili recipe and give them a try in soups like minestrone or vegetable.
The Picky Eater Alternative
If you just aren’t a fan of fibrous foods, you can always try Flaxseed. It’s packed with fiber and can be easily added to most dishes without changing the flavor. Try adding a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to soups, smoothies and casseroles. Each tablespoon contains about 3 grams so it’s not wise to try to make it your only extra source.
It doesn’t take much to improve your fiber intake. Adults and kids both should get around 20 grams of dietary fiber a day. That’s fiber from your diet, not from supplements. Considering the average sized apple has about 3 grams that can seem pretty daunting but simple changes can make a big difference. It all adds up at the end of the day.