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Why all the talk about dietary fiber? Dietary fiber is essential. High fiber foods help us feel full without adding a lot of calories to our diet. These foods help us feel satisfied as they need more chewing. They help regulate our blood sugar and help us lose weight. Fiber acts as a broom to sweep cancer-causing stuff out of our bowels. It helps us stay regular and decreases constipation. Fiber also helps to reduce our cholesterol.
You ask, “Can I just take fiber pills to get more fiber?” Food is the best way to get fiber as it also contains the other good things that our bodies need.
Much of the fiber in the American diet comes from bread, rolls and pizza crust made from refined flours. I just read a label on the whole wheat bread bag and each slice provides 3 grams of fiber. The U.S. Dept of Agriculture says that the average slice of white bread has 0.7 grams of fiber. Cut the crust off a slice of white bread and it has just 0.3 grams of fiber! That means if my husband ate one piece of whole wheat toast for breakfast and took two sandwiches made on whole wheat bread in his lunch, I would have to eat 50 slices of white bread to equal the fiber in his whole wheat bread. That’s scary as that’s a lot of bread and calories!
“What about the fiber in the meat products I eat?” Our human bodies cannot use that fiber. We need what is found in plants. This was one of the U.S. government’s changes in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines as shown on the “plate”. They increased the number of servings of everything on the plate except the meat and dairy category.
Some top sources of fiber are beans, whole wheat flour, and berries. Avoid refined grains such as white flour, pasta or rice. To ensure you are getting enough good fiber, eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains. Eliminate or only use a little of those foods that contain little or no fiber.
You can add fiber to a salad or soup by adding some beans such as kidney or garbanzos. Add some fresh or frozen berries to your bowl of cereal in the morning. Eat the orange rather than drink the orange juice. By making some little changes, you will easily increase the fiber content in your foods.
“But how can I know what to buy?” you ask. Food-as-grown is the best. If the food is a processed food, it will have a nutrition label on the package. Learn to read those labels. Chose items that have several grams of fiber in each serving.
“But what about bloating and gas?” Drinking plenty of water and increasing the fiber in your diet a little at a time allows your body to adjust.
Grundy County Health Council members will be offering Shopping Matters tours. During these tours, participants practice key food shopping skills like buying fruits and vegetables on a budget, comparing unit prices, reading food labels, and identifying whole grain foods. The first Shopping Matters tour will be February 13, 2013 at 1 pm. Please call the health department to pre-register for the tour. Each tour will be limited to about 8 participants; each participant will receive a $20 gift card to use for food shopping. What a fun way to learn about dietary fiber!