Remember, there are two types of fiber ... soluable and insoluable. What’s the difference? My Food Diary says dietary fiber, the edible portions of plant cell walls are resistant to digestion, is an extremely beneficial component of our diets. Not only does it help ward off many diseases, it has been shown to aid in weight loss by reducing food intake at meals. This is because fiber-rich foods take longer to digest and thus result in an increased feeling of fullness and satiety. In addition, the more gradual absorption slows the entrance of glucose into the blood stream, thereby preventing large blood glucose and insulin spikes.
The recommended fiber intake is 20 - 35 grams per day for adults, or 10 - 13 grams for every 1,000 calories in the diet. This recommended amount should come from a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber, since each type provides different benefits. While it's not necessary to track, a 3:1 ratio of insoluble to soluble fiber is typical. Although neither type is absorbed by the body, they have different properties when mixed with water, hence the designation between the two. However, due to overlap in function between the two types and disparities in measurements of each depending on the method used, the National Academy of Sciences has recommended that these terms "gradually be eliminated and replaced by specific beneficial physiological effects of a fiber". Thus you may hear less about "soluble vs. insoluble fiber" in the future.
Soluble fiber is "soluble" in water. When mixed with water it forms a gel-like substance and swells. Soluble fiber has many benefits, including moderating blood glucose levels and lowering cholesterol. The scientific names for soluble fibers include pectins, gums, mucilages, and some hemicelluloses. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats and oatmeal, legumes (peas, beans, lentils), barley, fruits and vegetables (especially oranges, apples and carrots).
Insoluble fiber does not absorb or dissolve in water. It passes through our digestive system in close to its original form. Insoluble fiber offers many benefits to intestinal health, including a reduction in the risk and occurrence of colorectal cancer, hemorrhoids, and constipation. Most of insoluble fibers come from the bran layers of cereal grains.
Since dietary fiber is found only in plant products (i.e., nuts, whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables), these are essential to a healthy diet. The average American significantly falls short of the recommended amount of fiber, consuming on average only 12 - 17 grams per day. Ways to increase dietary fiber in your diet are:
- Choose whole fruits and vegetables (with peels when possible) instead of juices.
- Choose whole grain bread, cereals and pasta in place of their overly processed, refined counterparts.
- Replace white flour (or at least a portion of it) with whole wheat flour in baked goods.
- Replace white rice with brown rice.
- Replace meat with beans or other legumes in meals. Lentils are perfect for this!
Now that you understand the two types of fiber, let’s move on to sugars and sweeteners. Cereals are notorious for adding lots of sugar to make whole grains more palatable. Today’s children have an insatiable sweet tooth and we, as parents and grandparents, are not helping by hiding the wonderful flavors of whole grains and healthy food by excessively sweetening them. Allowing children (and ourselves) to learn to enjoy the natural flavor of foods is critical to eating healthier. I love my morning oatmeal with a few dried cranberries, raisins, and/or other dried fruits or unsweetened applesauce and a little cinnamon. No sugar or other sweetener and just a splash of unsweetened soymilk. I had no idea how wonderful plain cooked oatmeal could taste, but I had to retrain myself ... I was a sucker for the cute little packets of instant oatmeal with no redeeming qualities at all! Once I realized that, I now opt for the healthier whole, long-cooking organic oats, preferably steel-cut. Need a recipe?
Crock-Pot Steel Cut Oatmeal
The only variation I used was substituting soymilk for the whole milk ... very yummy!!
Not into steel-cut oats? Try The Perfect Oatmeal which uses the type of oatmeal of which most people are familiar.
Need some breakfast ideas beyond the usual offerings? How about this? Want bacon, fried eggs, white toast with jelly? Try Canadian bacon, soft cooked, poached, or scrambled eggs with whole wheat toast with low sugar jam.
Want pancakes (made from a mix) with butter and syrup with a side of sausage? Try a whole wheat pancake mix or make your own using ½ whole wheat flour, a vegan sausage, and real maple syrup - skip the butter.
Going for a toaster strudel or Poptart type breakfast? A simple piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and/or low sugar jam is a better choice - and grab a piece of fruit.
Doughnuts? I have nothing for you ... just say no.
There are ...
- smoothies (watch out for added sugars)
- leftovers (some of my personal favorites) - whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce, chili, brown rice with refried beans rolled up in a whole grain tortilla, or red beans and brown rice
- low fat, low sugar yogurt (I prefer Greek fat-free yogurt) with low sugar granola
Have a suggestion? Thought? Opinion? Leave a comment! Thanks.