Posted Aug. 6, 2008 — Think you should be eating more fiber? You’re not the only one.
Results from the just-out International Food Information Council's 2008 Food and Health Survey. Information Council’s 2008 Food and Health Survey suggest that 77 percent of us are trying to include more fiber in our everyday eating.
That’s good news, but we’ve got a big gap to close—most of us only get about half the amount of fiber experts recommend (at least 25 grams daily for women under 50; 38 grams daily for men).
So what’s stopping you? If you’re like most people, you’ve got a few misconceptions about fiber to overcome. Here are some of the most common?
“I don’t need more fiber—I feel fine.”
Fiber is the part of plant foods that our body doesn’t digest, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need it. Add more fiber to your life and you’ll help reduce your risks for some of the most important health problems many Americans face. It reduces the risk of cancer, heart disease, helps to control the blood sugar fluctuations of diabetes, and allows kidney failure patients to eat more protein.
Take the insoluble type of fiber found in whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits: it helps keep your digestive tract running on schedule—and, because it helps you feel full without adding any calories, it can help you lose weight. That may be one reason why people who get plenty of fiber in their diets tend to weigh less and gain less weight as they age, compared to those who don’t.
The other main type, soluble fiber, is found in oats, fruits, beans, and vegetables. Studies show it may help prevent cholesterol from being absorbed in the intestines, which could help you manage your total cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. And, soluble fiber may help people manage their diabetes.
“Adding fiber to my diet is hard.”
These days, there are plenty of convenient ways to add fiber to your daily routine. It’s especially easy in the morning, since the breakfast table offers plenty of fiber-rich choices: whole grain cereals (look for brands that contain at least 3 grams of fiber per serving) ; high-fiber muffins; or oatmeal with a sprinkle of nuts and dried fruit, or a whole-wheat
English muffin with a dollop of peanut butter. Switch to whole-wheat or rye bread in your sandwiches; seek out brands that offer at least 3 grams of fiber per slice.
Don’t forget to make a conscious effort to include some fruit and/or vegetables at every meal—say, topping your cereal or yogurt with berries. Opt for a side salad with your sandwich instead of chips, and keeping frozen chopped vegetables and canned beans (like black, garbanzo, and kidney beans) handy to toss into soup, chili, casseroles or pasta dishes. Snack on high-fiber granola bars or your own trail mix that includes your favorite fiber-rich cereal, and have fresh fruit for dessert.
“Foods with fiber don’t taste good.”
If you think you’re not going to like the taste of fiber-containing foods, think again. There are more choices for foods with fiber in the supermarket than ever before. Explore the possibilities of beans in all forms: bean soups and chilis, bean salads and hummus, or bean-based entrees like enchiladas. You can even find fiber in yogurt: look for types that include inulin, a chicory root extract that’s rich in soluble fiber.
“Fiber doesn’t agree with me.”
Studies show that people who follow high-fiber diets over a long period of time tend to adapt easily to the change, without reporting major problems. But if you try to get too much fiber, too fast, you might have some intestinal discomfort—so go easy in the beginning. Try adding just one or two fiber-rich foods to your menu each day, giving your body time to adjust. Spread them out over the day. Drink plenty of water to help your body process the increased fiber. You’ll soon find that getting plenty of fiber not only feels good, it’s an instinct.
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