We'll tell you how to include more of this weight-loss ally in your daily diet
In recent years, fiber has been steadily disappearing from the landscape of the American diet. Instead, fast food, junk food and other pre-packaged foods have been squeezing fiber-rich choices out of Americans' daily consumption, explains Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, a past spokesperson for American Dietetic Association (ADA).
According to the National Academy of Sciences, the recommended intake for adult Americans is 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. Currently, the average American consumes about 10 to 12 grams per day, less than half of the recommended allowance.
What does it do?
But it turns out that many of us are not in the know in terms of fiber's multiple health benefits and its many food forms, which may help contribute to its disappearing act. Most of us know that fiber has a reputation for "getting things moving" in the gastrointestinal realm. And calorie-conscious folks understand that fiber-rich foods trigger a feeling of fullness. In addition, "fiber appears to reduce the risk of colon and breast cancer, and heart disease," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, LD, an ADA spokesperson. "It's also good for individuals with diabetes who are trying to control their blood sugar."
How to Find Fiber
Where can you find fiber? Fiber-rich foods fall into five categories: fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds (you'd have to eat a lot of seeds to get fiber, but 1/4 cup of peanuts has 3 grams) and whole grains. Fiber content is required to be listed on the nutrition fact label on all packaged food. To determine how much fiber is in your fresh produce, Tallmadge suggests checking nutrition guides in bookstores or online. To increase fiber intake, eat vegetables and fruit with the skin on, when possible, and eat the whole fruit or vegetable rather than drinking its juice.
Fiber-Rich Food Ideas
In the afternoon, add beans like cooked kidney or garbanzo beans to your favorite salad. "Make batches of bean and vegetable soups and eat them throughout the week," suggests Tallmadge. For lunch, try a bowl of bean soup coupled with a high-fiber roll, adds Jackson. Another lunchtime favorite: a whole-wheat or corn tortilla with low-fat refried beans, lettuce and salsa. For snacks, Jackson suggests a small bag of grape tomatoes, red pepper strips, baby carrots or sugar-snap peas.
At dinner, trade in white rice for brown rice or other fiber-rich grains such as barley or bulgur, or white pasta for whole-wheat pasta. (Be sure grains are listed as whole in ingredients lists.) For dessert, Jackson suggests a cup of seasonal berries, a broiled banana, a baked apple with cinnamon or a grilled peach. Before long, fiber will become a dependable staple in your daily dietâ€”and a constant companion in your goal to stay healthy while losing weight.
| Some common foods and their fiber content (in grams): |
| Apple, large, with skin || 3.7 |
| Banana || 2.8 |
| Orange || 3.1 |
| Raisins, 1 miniature box || 0.6 |
| Beans, canned kidney, ½ cup || 4.5 |
| Broccoli, raw, ½ cup || 1.3 |
| Oatmeal, cooked, ¾ cup || 3.0 |
| Raisin bran, 1 cup || 7.5 |
| Nuts, dry roasted mixed, 1 oz. || 2.6 |