Fiber is one of those necessary evils that we must add to our diets in order to stay regular and promote good digestive health. Most of us should have about 25 grams of fiber a day in order to encourage proper digestive functionality. But the thought of stirring in bland flax seeds into oatmeal or eating broccoli with every meal isn’t always that appealing. However, there are some simple ways to get more roughage without sacrificing the taste and texture of your favorite foods:
1. Grab a banana in the morning (2.4 grams of fiber). You can eat it alone or cut it up in oatmeal or a fiber-enriched cereal for increased benefits.
2. Order the sweet potato french fries instead of the white potato fries (3.4 grams of fiber). Many restaurants offer these delicious options and they give you an instant fiber boost.
3. Eat more chili (kidney beans have 7.9 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup). Make a chili dog and put it on a whole wheat bun (1.4 grams) and you’ll get nearly half your needed fiber intake for the day!
4. Get popcorn at the movies instead of candy — this natural snack has one gram of fiber per cup.
5. Ask for the brown rice instead of the white rice when you order takeout food (3.5 grams of fiber per cup).
Fiber Differences: Insoluble and Soluble
There are two types of fiber–insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber helps you increase the bulk of your stool, which is ideal for those suffering from constipation or irregular bowel movements. Theses include foods like dark green leafy veggies, fruit skins, whole-wheat breads and corn bran. These make up about 75 percent of our daily intake as a rule.
Soluble fiber can be food-based (such as flax seed, carrots and nuts) or sold as a powder (e.g. Metamucil or Citracel) that transforms into a gel substance once ingested. This type of fiber works in your digetstive tract to ease bowel movements and keep you regular. Soluble fibers account for about 25 percent of our daily intake in general.
The benefits of fiber include regularity and smooth digestion, lowered risks of digestive problems (including colorectal cancer), reduced cholesterol and glucose levels, regulated blood sugar levels and even weight loss. If you have trouble processing fiber (excessive gas or bloating), try a dietary supplement such as Beano for relief. Also, be sure to drink at least eight glasses of water per day to help keep things moving. Citrus fruits like oranges and apples are also excellent sources of fiber and act as catalysts during the digestion process.
1. National Cancer Institute. “Trials Show No Effect of Low-Fat, High-Fiber, and High-Fruit and -Vegetable Diets on the Growth of New Colorectal Polyps in People with a History of Precancerous Polyps.” http://www.cancer.gov/newscenter/polyp-prev-diet. Accessed January 3, 2009.
2. Seek Wellness. “Low Cost Fiber Recipes for a Healty Diet.” http://www.seekwellness.com/nutrition/low_cost_high_fiber.htm. Accessed January 3, 2009.