Although fiber is one of the most important nutrients essential for a healthy body, it is also the most neglected one. In a nutshell, fiber consists of the indigestible parts of plant food that provide our intestines with the bulk and roughage they need to maintain a smooth functioning digestive system. In addition to this, fiber helps to lower cholesterol, stabilize blood glucose levels thus keeping you feeling full for longer.
There are two kinds of fiber – soluble and insoluble. The former slows down digestion, helping you stay full for longer. Peas, beans and oats are examples of soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains and vegetables and this has a major role to play in preventing digestive problems.
The recommended daily allowance of fiber is 30 grams/day for men and 25 grams/day for women. However, on an average we manage to get only half of that from our current diet.
So the crux of the matter is that fiber is one nutrient you cannot afford to miss and the good news is that it is the easiest to obtain. All you need to do is pay extra heed to what you eat and make sure to include high fiber foods in your daily diet. So what are these foods and how can you enrich your diet with them?
Here are some healthy and tasty ways to add more fiber to your diet:
- Eat foods with complex carbs
Foods such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, beans and seeds not only contain complex carbohydrates but also large amounts of fiber. Jump start your day with a healthy breakfast that includes whole grain bread with baked beans or whole wheat spaghetti, fresh fruit, nuts and yogurt. Always choose the whole grain option of grain based foods like bread and pasta. Avoid packaged. processed and canned food as far as possible and go in for freshly cooked meals instead.
- Include lots of vegetables in your daily meals
Beginning your meals with a salad or vegetable soup is an excellent trick to ensure that you are eating more of veggies that you normally would. Non starchy vegetables are ideal as they are low in calories and are great sources of fiber. Including carrots, peas, lettuce, cabbage and such other veggies in cooked or uncooked forms will give you your daily quota of fiber. Snacking on vegetable sticks is an excellent way to add to your fiber intake and to keep yourself from gorging on unhealthy options like cookies and muffins instead.
- Eat whole fruits and vegetables, not juice
Juice only contains a concentration of sugar as it has been stripped of almost all fiber. Having the actual fruit or vegetable instead provides you with all the benefits, ensuring that you get all the micronutrients along with the natural fiber present in them. Therefore, rather than enjoying chilled, strained juice, go in for whole veggies and fruits.
- Snack on nuts and seeds or incorporate into your recipes
Nuts and seeds are powerhouses of protein, vitamins and fiber. Another advantage is that they have a long shelf life and are extremely versatile foods, making for the best snacks. Carry a fistful of mixed nuts to snack during those between meal hours when you feel hungry while at work. Or you can even add them to your cereals and salads to increase your fiber intake.
- Add plenty of legumes to your diet
Legumes consist of kidney beans, peas, lentils and these are loaded with all essential nutrients including fiber. Just one cup of cooked beans can provide you with 75% of your daily fiber requirement. Make a conscious choice to replace meat with legumes for a few meals every week to ensure that you are not depriving your body of valuable fiber.
- Keep yourself well hydrated
Dietary fiber soaks up a lot of water during the process of digestion which means that you have to increase your fluid intake in proportion to your fiber intake. Inadequate hydration may deprive your cells of the water they need to function optimally. Drink at least eight glasses of water per day to maximise the benefits of increased fiber in your diet.
It’s only a question of extra creativity and better planning. All you need is to make a few adjustments to your recipes and your grocery list to meet your daily fiber requirements and you will soon be a healthier version of yourself.
Should you want to explore more ideas about how to incorporate fiber into your diet or try some of our healthy meal options please feel free to browse the Calorie Care website