Fiber is a carbohydrate that cannot be digested by the body. Because it is resistant to digestion, fiber provides no nutrients to the body. For this reason, nutritionists long believed that fiber was merely filler and were unconcerned with stripping it out of bread, pasta and cereal.
In truth, fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. It helps to maintain regularity by adding bulk to stools and drawing water into the digestive track. Fiber can also reduce cholesterol levels and decreases the risk of heart disease. And, according to recent findings, a high-fiber diet may help reduce high blood pressure as well.
Unfortunately, most Americans get less than half of the fiber they need. The recommended daily allowance for women under the age of 50 is 25 grams.
So what are you waiting for? Bulk up with these 10 tips for increasing your fiber intake.
- Start slowly, add a little each day and build up to the recommended level. Simultaneously, add more water to your diet.
- Eat vegetables and fruit raw whenever possible. Boiling them too long, for example, can cause up to one-half of the fiber to be lost in the water. Steam or stir-fry them if you have to cook.
- Pureeing doesn't destroy fiber, but juice does not have the fiber of the whole fruit if the pulp has been strained away.
- Always start your day with a bowl of high-fiber cereal -- one that has five or more grams per serving.
- Put fresh fruit on top of your high-fiber cereal to add another 1 g or 2 g of fiber.
- Buy and eat onlywhole grains. The operative word is "whole." Look for it on the ingredient panel. Wheat bread doesn't mean whole-wheat bread. On average, a slice of whole-wheat bread has 2 g to 3 g of fiber. Choose whole- wheat pasta instead of white, etc.
- Add beans to salads, soups and stews.
- Add bran cereal to muffins, breads and casseroles. Substitute oat bran for one-third of the all-purpose flour in baking.
- When you eat out, ask for fresh fruit instead of dessert.
- Have fruit or fresh vegetables for between-meal snacks.