Unfortunately, fiber has become the abandoned substance. According to the American Dietetic Association, most Americans “don’t even come close” to the recommended intake of 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day and actually consume about half of that (14 to 15 grams per day). This diet tragedy stems from the fact that the typical American lacks plant-based foods — legumes, peas, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables — in their daily diet regimen. To make matters worse, Americans are well-known for their over-consumption of processed and man-made food products as well as fast food. Most of these foods rarely, if ever, contain fiber in any significant amount.
"Show Me the Fiber!"
One of my favorite movies is Jerry Maguire, released in 1996, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Tom Cruise. It includes that great scene when Cruise asks Cuba, "What can I do for you?" And with all his "fineness" and charisma intact, Cuba responds with, "Show me the money!" Cuba, along with music and dancing, even makes Cruise yell it out a few times.
So what does this have to do with fiber? No, this was not a commercial break. As a fitness trainer, I always ask my clients to write down everything they eat for a week and during the grading process, red pen in hand, I ask them to "show me the fiber!" Just as most Americans, my clients are usually clueless as to how many grams of fiber they are consuming each day, and worse, they seldom know which foods contain fiber and at what amounts. Moreover, most Americans are not aware of the all the benefits of a high-fiber diet.
Why Is fiber important when it comes to health, wellness, and weight loss? Dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, includes all parts of plant foods that your body can't digest or absorb. Fiber is commonly classified into two categories: insoluble fiber (those that don’t dissolve in water) and soluble fiber (those that do). A high-fiber diet has many benefits, which is not limited to normalizing bowel movements. While research to determine whether high-fiber diets reduce the risk of colon cancer is inconclusive and ongoing, we do know that high-fiber diets have a major impact on the health of the colon — fiber plays a role in lowering the risk of common intestinal ailments like constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticular disease. Protect your colon because it is the place in which many diseases start.
In addition, fiber also lowers blood cholesterol levels, can help lower blood sugar and manage diabetes. Fiber also aids in weight loss due to the fact that high-fiber diets are “energy dense,” which means fewer calories for the same volume, and fiber gives you that feeling of fullness, thus you are less likely to overeat.
Where Do You Find Fiber?
Fiber is found in plant-based foods like legumes, peas, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and there are some top fibrous foods you should consider so that you will get more bang for your calorie.
Legumes and peas are loaded with nutrition and fiber. One cup of black beans or lentils contain 15 grams of fiber, while my favorite, chickpeas, contain 13 grams, and those cute little peas you may have disliked as a child contain 9 grams of fiber. Legumes and peas can be easily added to a salad, sandwich or wrap, or used as a side dish for any meal.
Nuts and seeds are a great snack and can be used when cooking meals or added to a soup or salad. Keep in mind that a quarter of a cup of almonds has 4 grams of fiber, yet, like most nuts and seeds, they are high in calories and fat, and in many cases loaded with sodium, unless you chose raw and unsalted nuts and seeds.
Whole grains like amaranth, barley, bran, brown rice, oats, quinoa, rye, and triticale are great sources of fiber and contain anywhere between 4 to 10 grams of fiber in a serving size of about one-half to one cup. When selecting man-made grain products like cereal, bread, tortillas, and pasta, make sure they are made with the whole grain and are not full of sugar, salt, and trans fats.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are one of the best sources of fiber because they are low in calories and add so much more value to your overall diet. Here are the ABCs of some fruits and vegetables and their fiber content:
- Asian Pear: one medium = 10 grams of fiber
- Artichoke: one medium = 6.5 grams of fiber Asian Pear: one medium = 10 grams of fiber
- Artichoke: one medium = 6.5 grams of fiber
- Apple: one medium = 4 grams of fiber
- Brussels Sprouts: 1 cup = 7 grams of fiber
- Broccoli: 1 cup = 5 grams of fiber
- Berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries): 1/2 cup = 2 to 4 grams of fiber
- Banana: 1 medium = 3 grams of fiber
- Carrots: 1 medium = 1.7 grams of fiber
- Cherries: 10 = 1.6 grams of fiber
[Due to the discrepancies between food value charts, fiber grams are approximated.]
Although dried fruit like prunes, raisins, figs, and apricots are calorically dense, they are a great way to increase your fiber intake "on the go" or can be added to your favorite cereal instead of that dreaded table sugar. Potatoes and yams contain anywhere from 3 to 5 grams of fiber, give you sustained energy levels for a long period of time, and contrary to misguided diet advice, are not fattening!
How Much Fiber Are You Consuming Each Day?
Now while I'm no Cuba Gooding Jr., I want you to "show me the fiber"! Where are the legumes, peas, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet? Plants are where it’s at, and you will even find traces of fiber in herbs and spices. However, you won't find fiber in oils or in animal protein foods like fish, poultry, beef, eggs, or dairy products (the exception would be a fruit-fortified yogurt). Every time you are about to prepare or eat a meal or snack, ask this question: "Where's the fiber?" and count your fiber grams each day. Hopefully you will be able to "show me the fiber," or at least remember this article — after all, how many fitness experts are bizarre enough to associate Cuba, Cruise, and money with fiber?
Bottom Line on Fiber
Don't forsake fiber. Increase your intake of fibrous foods and by doing so you will automatically add more plant-based foods to your diet, thus adding more water, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, enzymes, and more — reaping the rewards of health, wellness, and more. With so many natural, wholesome, and tasty fibrous foods to choose from, 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day could be your new reality. Just in case you still have a problem: you can find reputable green drinks on the market today. While you are at it, make sure you consume water all day long — you will be happier, healthier, and leaner.
Opinion in Sci/Tech — by Christine Lakatos — on Feb 04, 2010
Show Me the Fiber!