Q: I have been trying to increase my fiber intake by eating more vegetables and switching to wheat bread. Do you have any other suggestions?
A: Most Americans are trying to consume more fiber these days. Unfortunately, nine out of 10 Americans fall short of the daily recommended fiber intake. The average American eats only half the daily recommended amount of fiber which is 30–40 grams of fiber per day, depending on your age. Most Americans average only 14 grams of fiber/day. There are numerous health benefits to getting your daily dose of fiber, including lowering your cholesterol, providing a feeling of fullness, and adding healthy bacteria to your gut.
Fiber is the non-digestible part of plant foods found in grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Undigested fiber provides friendly immune-boosting bacteria through a process called fermentation. There are two main types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Think of soluble fiber as a sponge; it collects and removes toxins including bad (LDL) cholesterol from our bodies. Foods containing soluble fiber include oatmeal, apples, pear, legumes and barley. Soluble fiber adds bulk to stools while insoluble fiber increases movement of the bowels. Insoluble fiber, or roughage, works like a broom in a sweeping or cleaning motion of the intestines. Examples include wheat bran, some whole wheat products, fruits and vegetables.
Whole Grain vs. Fiber
Don’t be fooled by whole grain and be sure to "flip for fiber." This means turning over the label to make sure the claim is true. If a product claims to be 100 percent whole wheat, then the first ingredient most likely is whole wheat that provides at least 2-3 grams of fiber or more per serving. If a package reads "wheat," "natural," "multi-grain" or "whole grain," you must check the first ingredient on the ingredient list to verify that whole wheat is the first ingredient listed and then, that the fiber grams per serving are at least 3 grams or more.
If the first ingredient reads “enriched” or “refined,” then chances are the fiber grams per serving are equal to or less than 1 gram and the beneficial fiber has been removed in processing. Make the time to check your bread label and see how much fiber you are eating.
■ A “good” source of fiber = 10 percent Daily Value, or 3 grams per serving;
■ An “excellent” source of fiber = 20 percent Daily Value, or 5 grams of fiber.
April Graff, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian at both Mankato Hy-Vee stores and can be reached at AGraff@hy-vee.com or call 625-1107 or 625-9070. Send her questions about food and nutrition, recipes, meal planning and healthy shopping.
How to add more fiber to your diet ■ Try to have at least one fruit and or vegetable with each meal. ■ Leave the skin on fruits and vegetables. ■ Serve hummus instead of high-fat dips. ■ Include a whole grain at each meal and snack (read the ingredient list). ■ Add beans to soup and casseroles. ■ Prepare a whole-grain for breakfast such as quinoa, steel-cut oats or barley.