Tips for Eating Fiber Every Day
Dietary fiber comes from the indigestible part of plant foods. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes are good sources of dietary fiber, which is especially good for people with diabetes. According to Virginia Bennett, a registered dietitian, “Fiber takes longer to eat, makes you feel more full and satisfied and helps with weight control.”
Fiber is a carbohydrate, but it’s not digested and absorbed like other carbohydrates, and it doesn’t affect blood sugar in the same way. Getting enough fiber in your diet can improve your levels of blood cholesterol and other fats and lower your risk of heart disease.
Most Americans don’t get as much fiber in their diet as they should. Even if you had been getting the recommended amount, it my not have been enough. “The Institute of Medicine has increased its daily fiber recommendations,” says Virginia Bennett. Adult men 50 and younger should get 38 grams of fiber per day (up from 30), and adult women of the same age should get 31 (up from 25). Men older than 50 should get 30 grams, and women should get 21.
It’s actually pretty easy to add fiber to your diet. For most people, the hard part is replacing your favorite snacks with the high fiber choices. It’s a matter of habit. Once it becomes part of your normal routine, the high-fiber foods can be as satisfying as the less healthy snacks.
Here are some ways you to add fiber to your food plan. But remember, you don’t have to try all these things at once. Gradually add one new fiber sources and try to eliminate the more unhealthy choices.
Try the new high fiber dressings and margarines.
These are made with plant sterols, which are thought to lower the “bad” cholesterol. You should be able to find these products in your grocery store.
Eat a small handful of nuts.
Nuts do have fat, but it’s the healthier, monounsaturated kind. Almonds, soy nuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, filberts and cashews are some good nut choices. And if you’re a woman who’s experiencing menopausal symptoms, soy nuts may provide an added advantage. Eating a small handful each day relieves hot flash symptoms in some women.
Lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans and navy beans provide heart-healthy soluble fiber. Think about using a bean dish as often as you like as a replacement for meat. (Be sure to try the recipe for “Simple Red Beans and Rice” in this issue.)
Use more vegetables and less pasta.
Pasta is fine in moderation. The problem is that we often have more pasta on the plate than anything else. Try to reverse that balance. “Use a little more vegetables and a little less pasta,” says Bennett.
Change your fast food habits.
At fast food places, get salads without a lot of meat, cheese and dressing. Choose whole grain breads, if you can. And when you go in for a snack when you pay for your gas, take advantage of the fresh fruit that’s often available, instead of a candy bar.
Instead of the usual snacks like chips and cookies, try: lower fat popcorn, whole wheat pita with hummus, pumpernickel snack sticks, a cup of soup (vegetable, lentil, bean, split pea), whole wheat tortillas with black bean dip or picante sauce, lower fat oatmeal or granola bars. “Be sure to count the carbs when you have these snacks,” reminds Virginia Bennett.
Sometimes you give in and have candy, cake, cookies, whatever. When you do this, have some vegetables too. It might be a strange combination, but the vegetables will “hold” you a little longer.
Virginia Bennett, RD, Allina Hospitals and Clinics