Naturally fiber-rich foods are not typically at the top of the list of choices for preparing and serving a meal that would be considered to be enticing to the palate. For a great number of individuals, the suggestion of increasing daily fiber intake triggers boring thoughts of eating a bowl full of tasteless bran flakes - to many, that is not a very exciting proposition. Perhaps that, along with the gastrointestinal discomfort that can be associated with consuming too much fiber or increasing its intake too quickly, can explain why most of us consume less than half of the recommended daily amount.
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies suggests that adults ages 50 years and younger consume 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams of fiber per day for men. As a result of eating fewer calories in general, women and men over the age of 50 years should eat 21 and 30 grams of fiber per day, respectively. Your goal should be to try to consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories ingested.
Fiber can be classified as either soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, whereas insoluble fiber does not. Foods rich in soluble fiber include oat bran, brown rice, barley, and certain fruits (e.g., plums) and vegetables (e.g., broccoli). Whole grain cereals and breads, wheat and corn bran, nuts, and seeds are examples of sources rich in insoluble fiber.
Adding fiber-rich foods to your diet offers many health benefits. These include:
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Reduced risk for heart disease
- Better blood sugar control in diabetics
- Improved digestive tract health
- Decreased risk for certain cancers (e.g., colon)
- Weight management
Eating foods rich in fiber can help to provide and boost energy levels. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals your body needs to function. If you are an active individual, the source of fiber, as well as the timing of its consumption, can have an effect on your exercise performance. Consume fiber-rich carbohydrates such as barley, rolled oats, or whole grain brown rice and pasta before a training session. These sources will provide you with the sustained energy needed to complete your workout. Eating fiber-rich beans and lentils as part of a high-carbohydrate, post-exercise meal will provide you with the protein needed for repairing muscle tissue damaged during the physical activity.
To make your transition to a higher-fiber diet more tolerable, follow these tips:
- Gradually increase your fiber intake - adding too much too soon can lead to symptoms of bloating, cramping, and flatulence
- Increase fluid intake, particularly water, to avoid constipation (fiber absorbs water from you gastrointestinal tract)
A fiber-rich diet does not have to lack flavor. Try these meal suggestions for increasing your dietary fiber:
Quinoa-Stuffed Red Bell Pepper
- 1 medium-size red bell pepper
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 TBS. chopped nuts
- 2 TBS. reduced-fat feta cheese or parmesan cheese
- 1/4 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 TBS. chopped green onion
- 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare quinoa according to directions on package. Mix quinoa, nuts, garlic, onion, lemon juice, and salt and pepper in small bowl. Set aside. Remove stem and seeds from bell pepper. Cook bell pepper in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove and let cool about 2 minutes. In the meantime, add cheese to the quinoa mixture. Stuff the bell pepper with the quinoa mixture. Place on baking sheet and cook in oven for 10 minutes or until warm. Serve immediately.
Apricot Broccoli Pasta Salad
- one 16 oz. box of favorite whole-grain pasta, cooked
- 1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli, cooked
- 1 cup chopped, dried apricots
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds (or chopped walnuts)
- 1 TBS vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 TBS shaved or shredded parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Mix orange juice and oil in small bowl. Set aside. Combine pasta, broccoli, apricots, and almonds in large bowl. Add oil/orange juice mixture and salt and pepper to taste. Toss. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.
Food for Fitness, Eat Right to Train Right, 2004, Carmichael, C.
Bicycling, December 2009, p. 36, "Nature's Cleanser," Bastone, K.
Labels: fiber-rich foods, high-fiber diet, insoluble fiber, soluble fiber