Did you know that meeting your dietary requirements for fiber is very important? This is because fiber has a wide range of wonderful benefits including helping our bowels stay regular, lowering blood cholesterol, and controlling blood sugars. Eating high fiber foods have the added benefit of making us feel fuller for longer, which can be particularly useful if we're trying to control our weight.
But, what is fiber?
There are two major categories of fiber in our diets - soluble and insoluble:
- Soluble fiber is found mainly in plant cells, and can help to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, while maintaining the HDL (good) cholesterol. It can also help to prevent constipation
- In contrast, insoluble fiber makes up the structural part of plant cell walls; its major role is to add bulk to the stool, therefore preventing constipation
It is important that we eat a variety of foods containing both soluble and insoluble fiber each day. However, most of us aren't getting enough. So, what foods should we be eating more of?
1. Start the day well
Begin your day with a high fiber cereal - opt for varieties containing wheat, oats, or barley. Why not top your cereal with sliced banana, a handful of berries, or even a dessertspoon of dried fruits? Another great option for adding extra crunch and fiber is to toss a handful of seeds on top.
2. Make your meals colorful
Aim for at least 5 servings of brightly colored fruits and vegetables each day. A serving is roughly 1/2 cup of fresh, frozen, or canned fruits or vegetables. You could also add finely grated vegetables to casseroles, stews, sauces, or curries. Carrots or sweet potato are a particularly good choice for this.
3. Add some bulk
You can make your meals go further while also making them healthier, by simply adding lentils, mixed beans, chickpeas or barley to soups, casseroles, stews or salads. There is a wide selection of different canned legumes to choose from, or you may even want to cook your own from the dried varieties.
When baking puddings why not try substituting wholemeal flour in place of white flour for cakes or muffin recipes? Another delicious alternative is to replace some of the flour, in a fruit crumble topping, with oats and nuts for a higher fiber, super crunchy version.
4. Make half your grains whole
Try to include a sandwich on wholegrain or multigrain bread for lunch, or you could make lunchtime a little more interesting by using wholemeal pitas, crumpets, muffins, or wholegrain crackers instead. Using brown rice or whole wheat pasta is another great way of adding additional fiber to your diet.
5. Snack healthy
Snack on dried fruits, nuts or seeds throughout the day, or add them to yogurt, and salads for a tasty alternative. If you like to experiment, try adding different dried fruits, nuts and seeds to your home baked recipes, you may discover something truly delicious!