We’ve all heard we should eat a diet high in dietary fiber. That such a diet will help us: maintain our weight, reduce our risk of developing cardiovascular disease, normalize our serum lipid levels, maintain our blood glucose levels, promote regularity and reduce constipation. Intriguing? Yes, absolutely; but, what does it all mean? What is this food called dietary fiber, where is it found find and how much does one have to eat?
Dietary fiber is either soluble or insoluble. Both are found in nondigestible carbohydrate of the plant food we eat and both have important roles in keeping our digestive tracts and our bodies healthy.
Where are they and what’s their role- Soluble fibers, like pectin and gums, are found in beans, oat bran, oatmeal, sesame seeds, citrus fruits, apples, bananas and carrots. These foods, when eaten in sufficient quantity, help to lower cholesterol and moderate blood sugar levels.
Insoluble fiber found in fruits and vegetables, wheat bran, whole grains, and nuts provides roughage and help to curb weight gain by leaving you feeling full longer; it also helps to reduce constipation.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as eating a variety of foods, the key is you have to eat the right plant foods in the right quantities for days, weeks and years on end. The bitch about a healthy diet is consistency, something I’m not very good at.
How much do I need? A high-fiber diet is a diet that includes fiber rich foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils (legumes), and whole-grain breads and cereals. You’re probably thinking ok, I eat all those foods so I’m healthy; but are you eating enough? The dietary guidelines recommend adults consume between 25-35 grams of dietary fiber a day; unfortunately, the average consumption is somewhere between 8-15 grams per day.
If you eat highly processed foods – foods that have had the fiber removed – like white bread, white pasta, cereals, McDonalds, Burger King etc, there’s a good chance your diet is lacking dietary fiber. Maybe you avoid highly processed foods instead favoring meat and potatoes with the odd salad. You may need to eat more dietary fiber rich foods, but how would you know?
You may not, but if you experience one of the following symptoms: constipation – typically experienced as rabbit like pooh; difficulty passing a stool; or not passing one for several days you’d be well advised to add more high fiber foods and more water to your diet. I’ll come back to the water later.
Real food choices in a busy day- Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or take massive amounts of time to prepare. This morning, I had trouble coaxing myself out of bed, thankfully when I finally dragged myself to the kitchen Vic had the gas heater going so it was toasty warm. Apartments in Lebanon, or at least Tyre, don’t have central heating. It gets pretty frosty when its 7 degrees outside.
A warm breakfast was called for.
I fired up the stove, put 1/3 a cup of oats, 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup milk in the pot and turned the heat to medium. While I waited for the coffee water to heat, I diced a banana and tossed it, a few blueberries and raspberries into the oat mixture.
I cooked the oat mixture for about 5 minutes till they were ready, turned off the heat, added a dash of vanilla extract and sat down to a lovely warm oat berry breakfast sprinkled with ground almonds and a cup of coffee. This really hit the spot!
The kids prefer plain oats cooked with a diced banana and sprinkled with all bran and chia . This is such a quick breakfast you can serve up a different flavor for everyone.
As part of our strategy to save money, Vic and I take a packed lunch to work. Today, we had leftover chicken and vegetable stew with carrots, zuchini and kidney beans. For a snack, we took berry bran muffins that I made yesterday afternoon. These are really easy to make and a great way to get additional fiber into your life.
In Lebanon, it’s very hard to find brown flour it’s one of those things that I sometimes find and when I do I stock up for months. The only problem with having stocks on hand is the darn weevils. They enjoy the flour as much as we do and I end up throwing it all out due to infestation.
Instead of brown flour for these muffins, I cheat and use all-bran cereal. A half a cup of all bran provides 10.4 grams of fiber, that’s what I call packed full of fiber. If you are new to eating high fiber cereals you would be advised to start off with a smaller serving and slowly build up to 1/2 cup over time. This will help prevent the potential side effects such as flatulence, cramps, bloating and diarrhea.
In a separate bowl add 1 1/2 cups flour, I used white because that’s all I had, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda and 1/4 tsp salt stir.
Puree one banana – add to the all bran mixture. Lightly beat 2 eggs and 1/4 cup oil together – add to the all bran mixture and stir till all are well combined.
Add flour mix to all bran mix and gentle stir only till it comes together. To this add approximately 1 cup fruit, I used a mixture of blueberries and raspberries mix gentle and scoop into greased muffin trays. I like silicone muffin cups there are reusable, environmentally friendly and make for easy clean up. Pop these into a preheated 200 degree oven for 20 minutes. Let cool in the pan and there you have a great nutrient dense fiber loaded snack.
These took about 5 minutes to whip up and have, according to my calculations, about 5 grams of fiber per muffin. My work snack was a muffin, an apple and a sliced carrot these added up to a whopping 11.7 grams of fiber. To be honest, these are so filling I needed no other snacks. The muffin disappeared around 10 when breakfast wore off and the apple and carrot around 3.
It was my turn to cook tonight and with the girls having Ballet I needed a fast and simple the evening meal. In the fridge I found some swiss chard, brown pasta, left over pepper cheese and cherry tomatoes so I whipped up a quick pasta dish.
Heated a little olive oil in a pan then added 2 chopped garlic cloves and some chili flakes – sautéd for a minute. Added the swiss chard and covered with a lid for a few minutes, tossed and covered again. The swiss chard cooks right down so don’t be afraid to add a lot of it.
Strained the pasta and returned to the pot, added the pepper cheese, seasoning, threw in the sautéed Swiss chard, cut tomatoes mixed and that was it.
A simple meal hot to the table in the time it took to cook the pasta, that’s my kind of meal. Best part is the kids loved it. You can use anything in the pasta, try pesto sauce, sour cream, grated cheddar cheese be creative and enjoy.
The fiber content for this depends on how much whole wheat pasta you use, a one cup serve of cooked pasta is about 5.6 grams, the tomatoes add between 1-.5 grams again depending on how many are in the serve – 1 cup cherry tomatoes is 7 grams of fiber.
The Swiss chard adds fiber too – 1 cup cooked is over 3 grams of fiber, but the real value of this vegetable is the added vitamin A, C and K.
A quick recap:
Did I mention raspberries and blueberries are loaded with fiber, just half a cup of either around 4 grams.
Take the optimists approach to your lifestyle, see it as a ‘glass half full’, you can fall off the healthy lifestyle bull every now and then, so long as you get back on tomorrow or the day after, so long as you get back on! Remember, it’s not about one offs food choices; instead, repeated healthy food choice over time will have a positive impact on your health.
Where would you like to see the recipes, in the post, at the bottom of the post or in a separate tab where they are alphabetized and easy to find? Please leave a comment to let me know.