You’ve probably heard that adding fiber to your diet is important, but do you know why? Well, there are two forms of fiber: soluble (found in foods such as beans and lentils, oats, citrus fruits, and psyllium) and insoluble (found in foods such as whole wheat flour, nuts, and vegetables), and each type provides its own unique health benefits.
Read More: A Guide To Healthy Diet
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel that binds with unwanted substances in your bloodstream to help remove them from your body. This makes it efficient at lowering blood lipids and glucose levels. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water so it helps move material through your digestive system, prevents constipation, and keeps your colon healthy. Both forms of fiber can help slow digestion and provide you with a feeling of fullness which helps reduce appetite and promote a healthy body weight.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that women age 50 and younger aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day and men age 50 and younger aim for 38 grams. For those over age 51, they recommend that women consume at least 21 grams and men at least 30 grams. However, on average, most Americans are only taking in about 15 grams of fiber per day, so we’ve got 5 ways you can work more into our diet so you can help lower your cholesterol, control blood sugar levels, decrease your risk for colon cancer, and of course, keep yourself regular!
1. Switch to whole grains.
If you fill your plate with pasta, eat toast for breakfast, or snack on pretzels, you could be missing out on the perfect opportunity to increase your fiber intake. Make an effort to avoid refined carbohydrates such as white pasta and instead choose 100% whole grain alternatives such as whole wheat pasta, oat bran pretzels, or even rye bread. You can still enjoy grains at each meal, but in doing so you’ll be doubling or even tripling your overall fiber intake!
2. Fill up on fruits and veggies.
At each meal, make an effort to fill at least half of your plate with fruits or vegetables. For instance, at breakfast, fill half your cereal bowl with blueberries or double the size of your omelet by adding peppers and onions. At lunch, add a side salad or vegetable soup to your sandwich. By spacing your fruit and vegetable intake throughout the day, it will be easy to take in at least five or more servings per day. And with each serving averaging between 2-3 grams of fiber, this is a quick and easy way to boost your intake!
3. Go meatless!
Select one day a week to ‘go meatless’ by choosing plant-based protein options as meals and snacks. For instance, skip the steak at dinner and replace it with vegetarian chili. Plant-based proteins such as lentils, beans, and quinoa are loaded with both insoluble and soluble fiber making them a healthy and delicious way to reap the health benefits.
4. Make every snack count.
Look at your average diet intake. How many snacks do you munch on throughout the day? Do you grab a cookie after lunch or a handful of chips at night? Reevaluate your snack options. Aim to fill your snack pantry and drawer with high-fiber snacks such as fresh fruits and vegetables, air-popped popcorn, nuts and seeds, and whole grain chips. By replacing low-fiber snacks with high-fiber alternatives, you’ll feel more satisfied and be well on your way to doubling your daily intake.
5. Bake it in!
Substitute all-purpose flour with whole grain flour such as 100% whole wheat flour or brown rice flour. You can replace all the flour with whole grain or even use half all-purpose flour with half whole grain. This will not only boost the fiber content of your next baked good, but it will also boost the nutritional value as well.
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