Jennifer Salt, Montclair State University Dietetic Intern Karen Ensle EdD, RD, FADA, CFCS, FCHS Educator, RCE of Union County
Eating a high fiber diet has many benefits. Fiber may be known for helping food move through the body, but it contributes to your health in other ways as well. High fiber foods are generally low in fat and calories and are more filling than foods made with white flour. Consuming fiber rich foods can replace other fattier foods from your diet and help in weight control. It has been shown that people who eat diets rich in fiber have lower body weights than those who eat less fiber. Additionally, fiber has been shown to help prevent heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol and blood pressure. Fiber also helps control blood sugar levels, which is very useful for people with diabetes. Lastly, adequate amounts of fiber in your diet can help prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. The recommended daily amount for fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. After age 50, daily needs drop to 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men. In order to reach these goals, include many fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans in your diet. Here are some small steps for increasing your fiber intake:
- Slowly increase the amount of fiber you eat to 25-38 grams per day
- Eat whole grain breads and cereals. Look for foods with 100% whole wheat, rye, oats, or bran as the first or second ingredient
- Eat a high fiber cereal to start the day with a boost and keep you feeling full longer
- Serve brown or wild rice instead of white rice or potatoes
- Enjoy a variety of grains. Good choices include barley, oats, faro, kamut, and quinoa
- Bake with whole wheat flour. Use it to replace some white or all purpose flour in recipes
- Add oats to meatloaf, breads, and cookies
- Enjoy baked beans more often. Add dried beans and peas to casseroles or soups
- Choose fresh fruits and vegetables with peels or skins on
- Add fruit to cereal or salad
- Add vegetables to stews and casseroles
- Compare food labels of similar foods to find higher fiber choices. On packaged foods, the amount of fiber per serving is listed on the Nutrition Facts Label.
- Check food labels and try to choose products with at least 4 grams dietary fiber per serving
- Drink plenty of fluids. Set a goal of at least 8 cups per day. You may need even more fluid as you eat higher amounts of fiber. Fluid helps your body process fiber without discomfort.