Fiber

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Fiber has a wide range of health benefits:

  • Promotes regular bowel movements and prevents constipation
  • May help lower cholesterol
  • May regulate blood sugar levels
  • Promotes a nutritious diet, since most fiber-rich foods are low in fat and high in nutrients
  • Can help you lose weight as fiber foods are filling 
  • Can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, improve the health of your skin, and help you lose weight. It may even help prevent colon cancer

Types of Fiber: Insoluble & Soluble

Many foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber and both are important for your health.

  • Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It is the bulky fiber that helps to prevent constipation. Think of it as a broom that helps sweep clean the digestive system. Insoluble fiber is found in whole grains, wheat cereals, and vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes.
  • Soluble fiber dissolves in water and helps control blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. Good sources include barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, and fruits such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pears.

Sources of Fiber

  • Legumes (kidney and other dried beans)
  • Bran (rice, oats, and barley)
  • Fruits (apples, oranges, pears, peaches, grapes, strawberries, bananas)
  • Vegetables (sweet potatoes, white potatoes, squash, carrots, green beans, broccoli, and peppers)
  • Wheat bran and whole grains (bread, crackers, breakfast cereals)

Common foods high in fiber

  • Cheerios: 1 cup = 2.6 grams
  • Multi-Bran Chex: 1 cup = 7.9 grams
  • Complete Bran Flakes: 3/4 cup = 4.6 grams
  • Oatmeal: 1 cup = 4.0 grams
  • Broccoli: 1/2 cup = 3.0 grams
  • Peas, canned: 1/2 cup = 4.0 grams
  • Beans (lima, kidney, navy): 1/2 cup = 4.0-7.0 grams
  • Apple with peel: 1 med. = 4.0 grams
  • Strawberries: 1 cup = 4.0 grams
  • Pear: 1 med. = 6.0 grams
  • Whole Wheat Bread: 1 slice = 3.0 grams
  • Popcorn, air popped: 3 1/2 cups = 4.5 grams
  • Whole Wheat Tortillas: 1 tortilla = 3.0 grams
  • Brown Rice: 1 cup = 4.0 grams

Shopping tips

In general, the more natural and unprocessed the food, the higher it is in fiber. There is no fiber in meat, dairy, or sugar. Refined or “white” foods, such as white bread, white rice, and pastries, have had all or most of their fiber removed.

When shopping for food, it is good to read the nutrition facts label to find the foods high in fiber.  Foods with 2-5 grams of fiber per serving are good sources of fiber.

How much fiber?

  • Adults: 25-35 grams of fiber daily.  This is twice as much fiber as most are now eating.
  • Children: Use the rule of age + 5 to age + 10 as a guide.
    • Example: 4 year old needs 9-14 grams of fiber daily (4+5 and 4+10 = 9-14 grams)

Remember to increase your fluid intake as you increase your fiber intake.

Tips for increasing fiber in your day

  • Choose at least 3 servings of whole grains per day.
  • Choose high fiber snacks.
  • Add cooked, dried beans to your meals such as black beans in taco meat, lentils and split peas in soup.
  • When baking, substitute whole grain flour for half or all of the white flour. Add crushed bran cereal or unprocessed wheat bran to muffins, cakes, and cookies.
  • Serve whole fruits or vegetables instead of juice, eat the skin of cleaned fruits and vegetables, and include with every meal.
  • Top yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal with fruits, nuts, or flaxseed (be sure to grind the flaxseed in a coffee grinder or food processor).

Sample menu (uses fiber-rich foods)

  • Breakfast: 
    • Raisin bran cereal or oatmeal with low fat milk
    • Strawberries
    • Coffee or tea
  • Lunch
    • Sandwich on whole-wheat bread with tomato and lettuce
    • Apple or pear
    • Large salad with dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach
    • Low fat milk
  • Dinner
    • Whole-wheat spaghetti with meat balls – try add mashed black beans to your ground beef 
    • Cooked mixed vegetables
    • Whole grain dinner roll
    • Low-fat milk
  • Snacks
    • Air popped popcorn

Sources: HelpGuide, USDA Infant Feeding & Nutrition – A Guide for Use in WIC, KidsHealth

This post was last updated on January 2nd, 2020 at 9:09 AM

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