Fiber fights disease and helps you lose weight. Getting enough?
Americans need to sneak more fiber into their diets. More than 90% of women and 97% of men don’t consume the amount of fiber recommended for health, according to the U.S. Government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The main reason we don’t get enough is that dietary fiber is hard to find in highly processed foods, especially fast foods, which are a huge part of the Standard American Diet.
Another reason may be because, well, fiber just doesn’t sound very tasty. Eating fiber seems about as enjoyable as chewing on macrame rope. Yet fiber is critical to good health, so we want to overcome those roadblocks and find easier ways to consume more.
Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate.
As clinicians we’re aware that fiber lowers total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) by binding to those particles in the small intestine. That prevents the damaging and dangerous LDL from entering your bloodstream, reducing circulating cholesterol. That’s a good thing. Another good thing: You know from experience that when you’re eating more fiber your stools are bulkier, softer, and easier to eliminate. Fiber offers many other benefits.
One meta-analysis of almost 250 studies found that consuming fiber from whole grains, vegetables, and fruits will decrease your risk of dying from heart disease, stroke, colon cancer, and diabetes by 16% to 24%. Also, adding more fiber to your diet will have you feeling full longer and reduce the amount of food you consume.
It’s best to start with fiber prior to diving into a meal to get that full feeling quicker so you eat less. Fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, which helps reduces inflammation. One study that followed 1,600 healthy adults for 10 years found that eating more fiber was associated with optimal aging. Healthier aging means being free of cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease, with improved physical, heart, and brain function. Other studies suggest that dietary fiber may reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
There are ample reasons to try to add more of this disease-preventing nutrient into your day. Here’s how to sneak more fiber into your diet:
1. Finish Your Meal with Fruit
Get into the habit of having fruit for dessert instead of pie or ice cream. (Shoot for five servings per day.) An apple packs 4.4 grams of fiber, a pear 6 grams, and prunes 3 grams. (FYI: prunes deliver other health benefits, such as improving bone mineral density, helping manage weight, and reducing the risk of heart disease, studies show.) Top your morning yogurt or steel-cut oatmeal with raspberries (8 grams) or blueberries (5 grams). Be sure to add protein, which aligns glucose with insulin most effectively, avoiding high (hyperglycemic) and low (hypoglycemic) blood glucose. Have avocado toast on whole wheat for a quick breakfast or snack. Yes, avocado is a fruit. You’ll get 4 grams of fiber and 4.9 grams of protein in a third of an avocado on whole-grain toast.
2. Make Oat Muffins
Oats contain a special type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan that lowers blood sugar (glucose) levels to avoid diabetes and improve overall metabolic health, according to a study in the Journal of Functional Foods. A bowl of oatmeal for breakfast supplies 4 grams of fiber. If you don’t feel like oatmeal, try making breakfast muffins with steel-cut oats and cinnamon, like this recipe for Healthy Cinnamon Muffins with Oatmeal from Clean Eating With Kids.
3. Fiber Up Your Pasta
Most pasta is made from flour that’s devoid of fiber (and protein), which is why you are still hungry 30 minutes after finishing spaghetti with marinara sauce. You can buy pasta made with whole grains packed with fiber. Check ingredients lists looking for pastas made from chickpeas, pea protein, spelt, and lentils.
4. Sneak Fiber Into Spaghetti Sauce
Even regular pasta that contains no fiber can be made healthier by sneaking fiber into the sauce. Add any cut-up vegetables to your jarred or homemade sauce to introduce a healthy dose of dietary fiber. Beans, too, are fantastic for fiber and protein. Dump lentils, white beans, or kidney beans into your sauce. Just one-half cup will contribute 7 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein to the dish.
5. Swap Your Snacks
Instead of potato chips, snack on air-popped popcorn, which is a whole grain. A 3-cup serving delivers 3.5 grams of dietary fiber. At work, keep a bag of nuts, walnuts, mixed nuts (not peanuts please), or pumpkin seeds to munch on. Remember that nuts and seeds are higher in calories so stick to a palm-sized serving. A half cup of almonds packs about 7 grams of fiber. Walnut halves deliver 4.2 grams, plus a heart-healthy, plant-based omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). An ounce of pumpkin seeds gives you 5 grams of fiber.
6. Drink Your Fiber
It’s always best to eat that orange or apple instead of drinking fruit juices. The whole fruit contains fiber, while the pure fructose from the liquid juice goes quickly into your bloodstream. But there’s a way to have your juice and fiber. Add a tablespoon of psyllium husk powder, a rich source of soluble fiber. Psyllium is the fiber found in Metamucil products.
7. Make a Fiber-rich Burrito
Beans are a rich source of fiber and plant-based protein so make a habit of eating beans and legumes like black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and lentils several times a week. One easy way to get more beans in your diet is to make a batch of breakfast burritos and freeze them so they can be quickly heated when you’re hungry. We like this Make-Ahead Spinach & Black Bean Burrito recipe from Eating Well and Diabetic Living Magazine.
Sneaking more fiber into your meals, especially starting a meal with fiber, is just one of the many ways you can live a healthier and more energetic active life. Groq Health is another tool. Our app provides personal, precision medicine insights and actionable interventions to reverse and stop the disorders of aging by reviewing your genetics, biomarkers, metabolism, hormones, and more. To access the transformative power of comprehensive personal precision medicine at your fingertips, join our waitlist.