As a dietitian, I have always promoted that people increase their fiber intake. It is recommended that we consume 25-35 grams of fiber/day and the average American gets 12g/day. Our fiber intake has decreased as our obesity rates have increased.
The studies that show fiber has many health benefits are endless. However, it is a challenge because we consume so many processed foods where fiber is removed. For instance, the fiber has been removed from white flour and white rice....that is why whole wheat flour and brown rice are healthier options. On any given day, 45% of Americans have NO fruit and 22% have NO vegetable (most common vegetables consumed are tomatoes and potatoes....not the highest in fiber when compared to other vegetables).
The digestive tract is about 28 feet long -fiber helps keep the digestive tract healthy and moves waste along. Fiber can help improve diarrhea and constipation - that is why we call fiber the "colon regulator". Increased fiber intake improves cholesterol, blood sugar, weight and reduces risk of some cancers.
What can you do to increase your fiber intake? Choose more fruits, vegetables, whole grains (not refined grains), beans and peas. Look at the food label - choose foods that have 3 grams of fiber per serving. My kids know to check cereal boxes because I will only buy cereal if it has at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. They have given up on the sugary cereals. Consider adding a fiber supplement but be selective. Choosing one with mostly soluble fiber will provide more benefits for cholesterol.
It is now recommended that we have 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. I make a concerted effort to have a salad a day (with dinner usually), at least 2 pieces of fruit/day and I only purchase whole grains. My bread has 3 grams of fiber per slice (you can find some that has 5!) and I like beans and peas although I do not eat those daily. Still, I don't make the 9 servings of fruits and vegetables on most days. I use Bios Life Slim as a fiber supplement which has 3.9 grams of soluble fiber per packet before two of my largest meals. Every since I started using Bios Life Slim, my cholesterol levels have improved. I also like the Matcha green tea because it has 2 grams/fiber per serving. It comes in a packet and you mix it with cold water - it is not a tea that is steeped so you get the benefit of having the whole tea leaf (just finely ground). On a sidenote, Matcha tea has 137 times more antioxidants than regular green tea.....and we all know green tea is good for us!
Here are some fast food meals that have good amounts of fiber. FRIES are not going to have much fiber. Ketchup either.....:) White buns are not going to have fiber but a whole grain bun is a better option. Many fast food restaurants offer fruit now instead of fries and that is a better choice. I am NOT promoting the consumption of fast food....no way....no how but I am a realistic dietitian and I know people consume fast food. I try to choose healthier options like Subway (with whole wheat bread and I ask for most of the veggies).
Another thing to consider is finding a service that delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to you. I know one obstacle to eating more fruits and vegetables is getting to the store to stock up. These services often offer organic and/or locally grown produce which is great for you and the environment.
Please COMMENT and let me know what you do to increase your fiber/fruits and vegetable intake? Let's share tricks and ideas!
Jen Birge MS,RD