Dietitians Dish: Make fiber a family friend
If you listen to the media at all, you have probably heard someone say that consuming fiber makes you healthier. But what is fiber actually? Terms used to describe fiber - such as "dietary," "functional," "soluble" or "insoluble" fiber - seem confusing.
You may think that it is not worth spending the time looking for the fiber, but for you, fiber is a friend. Fiber is the indigestible part of the plant that provides many health benefits.
Current research shows that eating high-fiber foods help reduce the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Fiber aids in maintaining good blood pressure and reduces the risk of developing clogged arteries. Fiber can help lower cholesterol, too.
Since fiber is not digested, it does not provide calories, and therefore, increasing fiber intake is a great way to enhance weight loss. High-fiber foods fill you faster, which will also help you avoid consuming excess calories. Fiber promotes proper bowel function and prevents constipation.
It is very important that you and your family develop early, healthy eating habits that incorporate fiber. Parents must be the role models for to their children. But how? Well, there are many ways to increase consumption of this nutrient.
The Dietary Reference Intake for fiber per day is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. The American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 25 grams per day for children and adults. A goal of at least 25 grams per day for you and your family is a good number to remember.
So where can you find fiber?
It is found everywhere, so it is quite easy to increase fiber in your diet. Fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, barley, oats and brown rice are excellent sources of fiber. These can be incorporated in your daily meals and snacks. At breakfast, fruits can be added to your whole-wheat cereal or low-fat yogurt, or they can top your pancakes.
For lunch, a whole-wheat bread sandwich can be prepared with many fresh vegetables and your favorite cheese and ham. The side dish can be one cup of hearty lentil soup or steamed spinach. For dinner, add vegetables to your pasta salad and casseroles.
If you shop for ready-made snacks, always read the food label. Look on the nutrition panel where it says "dietary fiber." If you read 2.5 grams to 4.9 grams per serving, the product is a good source of fiber; 5 grams per serving or more is considered a great source of fiber.
It is not complicated. Let your creativity do the work.
Eating high-fiber foods makes your family healthier, stronger and happier.
Iustina Iznaola is a dietitian at DeTar Hospital.