Fiber is a kind of carbohydrate that comes from a plant source and not produced by the body. It can’t be broken down by the body so it travels through the body undigested. Research shows that Americans get about 15 grams a day. That is about half of the daily recommended amount of 25-30 grams of fiber recommended that we need for good health preferably from a variety of whole food choices. These food choices also increase nutrients and vitamins that our body needs to better function, as well such as lowering cholesterol, better blood sugar control, lower heart disease risk and better bowel health. When increasing fiber in your diet it is best to take a “low and slow” approach. When increasing your fiber sometimes it can cause an increase in gas and/or bloating. To decrease these side effects make sure you drink plenty of water and add high fiber foods a little at a time.
Fiber comes in two different forms-both are beneficial
- Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can help lower glucose levels and also lower cholesterol. Foods to add to your diet with soluble fiber are nuts, beans, lentils, blueberries and oatmeal to name a few. Soluble fiber feeds the good bacteria in our gut building a healthy environment for digestion.
- Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water but helps to bulk up the stool making soft and easier to pass, keeping you more regular. Insoluble sources would be whole grains, brown rice, fresh fruits and vegetable and legumes for example.
How much fiber should I eat each day and how do I get it?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the recommended amount of dietary fiber intake is 14 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed. If you eat 2,000 calories a day that means you should aim for 28 grams of fiber daily.
When reading a food label look at the nutrition facts for the words “Dietary Fiber”.
- If it has 5 grams of fiber or over per serving it is an excellent source of fiber.
- If it has at least 3 grams per serving, it is a good source of fiber.
Let’s look at what the daily recommended amount of fiber looks like:
- 1/2 Cup Cooked Oats – 4 grams
- 1/2 Cup Blueberries – 3 grams
- Multi grain toast – 5 grams
- 1/4 Cup Hummus – 3 grams
- 1 Cup Broccoli – 5 grams
- 1 Cup Split Pea Soup – 5 grams
- 1 Pear – 5 grams
As you can see, it really isn’t that hard to add a variety of foods that you enjoy to boost your fiber intake that will have a huge impact on your health! Each day eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables and choose whole grains over processed grains.
Children have different fiber needs. However, using the simple “Eat Five” method, meaning -children will usually get enough fiber by making healthy food choices and getting at least five servings a day of fruits and vegetables.
Great sources of whole food fiber are:
- Apples with skin
- Artichoke hearts
- Whole grains (Not all foods labeled “whole grain” are a good source of fiber. Read the label and look for the FIRST ingredient to say 100% whole grain)
- Examples of whole grains include: whole wheat, brown rice, bulgur, buckwheat, oatmeal, whole-grain cornmeal, whole oats, and whole rye.
Tips to increase fiber
- Substitute brown rice with your next meal instead of white rice. When beginning this healthy transition, being with combining with half white rice and half brown rice.
- Snack on fruits and vegetables throughout the day
- Swap out the white bread for a whole grain bread (remember to read the label)
- Make your oatmeal and add fresh or frozen blueberries. Check out the recipe below
- Leave the fiber containing skin on your fruit and vegetables; apples, cucumbers, potatoes
- Add Chia seeds on top of your cereal, yogurt or add to smoothies for an added crunch.
- Swap meat protein out for plant-based proteins like beans, seeds, or nuts
While most people can meet their dietary fiber needs through food, others may benefit from a fiber supplement. Be sure to talk to your doctor and/or dietitian before starting any supplements!
High Fiber Smoothie Recipe
- 1 whole overripe banana fresh or frozen
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 cup fresh spinach
- 1 cup 1% milk or dairy alternative
- 1/2 cup plain yogurt (try using Greek yogurt for added protein)
- 1 tbsp. ground flax seed
Add ingredients to blender and blend till smooth.
This is a great way to get multiple servings of fruits and veggies in without having to turn your stove on!
But if you do want to turn on the stove, try out the next recipe on a cold night!
Split Pea Soup Recipe
- Oil of choice preferably Olive Oil or Avocado Oil if available
- 3 cups chopped yellow or white onion (two large onion)
- 2 cups diced small diced carrots (3 large carrots)
- 1.5 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 1 pound dry green split peas
- 8 cups chicken stock or water with Vegetable or chicken bouillon cubes to equal 8 cups
- 2 additional cups of water
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Ham bone-optional. This can be added while cooking the peas for added flavor
- Turkey Kielbasa-optional. This can be pan fried up and added to the finished soup.
- *If using bouillon cubes or adding a ham bone, salt will not be necessary.
- Heat the oil and add the chopped onions and carrots and cook till soft and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and after one minute add the dry split peas and cook another minutes stirring constantly. Add the 8 cups of stock, dried Thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper and ham, if using. Add the additional water.
- Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer till the peas are soft partially covered with a lid; about 1 ½ hours. Stir occasionally, to make sure the peas are not sticking to the bottom.
- Remove the ham bone if using, and bay leaves.
- If soup has gotten too thick, add more broth or water.
- If using the Kielbasa, cut up into small pieces and brown them in a skillet. Add to the soup. Serve with a crusty whole grain roll. YUM!!
- This can be frozen for up to 3 months. So double the batch and freeze for later!
We hope you enjoyed this information about fiber! If you have any further questions about this topic or recipes please contact:
Chef T Tbarrios@feedhopenow.org