“Are you getting enough fiber?” This is a question we hear at doctor visits and on the television. We read about it in books, newspapers and magazines. We know fiber is important, but do we know why?
Fiber is found in plants. More specifically dietary fiber is what we eat, and it is found in grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Fiber can be soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber attracts water and becomes gel during the digestion process. Soluble fiber is found in oats, dry edible beans, barley and fruits. It helps lower blood cholesterol and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Insoluble fiber helps the intestine function well. It is found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains. Insoluble fiber helps prevent ulcers, constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis.
Fiber isn’t a “miracle food,” but adding fiber-rich foods to your diet can have health benefits. The National Cancer Institute recommends getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily for older children, adolescents and adults. Americans, on the average, are eating only about 10 to 15 grams of fiber per day.
High-fiber foods usually are low in calories, and many are inexpensive, too. There are some simple steps to increase fiber, but remember to increase your fiber intake slowly, and drink plenty of water to avoid digestive upset.
Choose whole-grain and bran breads. Look for “whole grain” (followed by wheat, oats, etc.) as the first listed ingredient.
Choose fiber-rich breakfast cereals. The food label can state that a product is “a good source” of fiber if the food has 2.5 grams of fiber per serving. The package can claim “high in,” “rich in” or “excellent source of” fiber if the food provides 5 grams per serving.
Serve whole fruits and vegetables at every meal, and eat the skins whenever possible.
Experiment with dry edible beans, peas and lentils.
Snack on popcorn; dried fruits, such as figs, raisins and prunes, and whole-grain crackers. Be careful, dried fruits are high in calories. One-fourth cup is considered one serving.
The next time you’re hungry for soup consider making split pea soup instead of cream of tomato. If you have a sweet tooth, choose an oatmeal raisin cookie rather than a sugar cookie. Even making simple swaps in your diet will help to increase your fiber intake.
Here’s a recipe that’s high in fiber and delicious, too.
Oat Bran Banana Bread
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 c. oat bran
1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. skim milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. banana, mashed
Stir together flour, soda, oat bran and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, mix sugar and oil. Add eggs, milk, and vanilla, beat until smooth. Mix in mashed banana. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture. Pour into loaf pan that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray or lightly greased. Bake at 350 F for 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Remove and cool. Makes one loaf.
Nutrition information per one-sixteenth slice serving: 121 calories, 2.3 grams fiber, 4.8 grams fat.
(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)
Please contact me with any questions at 254-4811 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like a copy of these publications FN1458 “RateYour Fiber Fitness” and FN1460 “Fast Fiber Facts” stop by our office.
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