By Mia Syn, MS, RDN
Whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains all have one thing in common: fiber. You have probably heard from your registered dietitian to “eat more of it” but what exactly is it, and what makes it so important?
Fiber: A Shortfall Nutrient
One of the first recommendations I make to my new clients is to eat more fiber because the truth is most Americans aren’t getting enough. On average, American eat 15 grams per day (1) while the dietary guidelines recommend at least 25 to 30 grams per day (2). However, not all fiber is created equal: soluble and insoluble fiber each offer its own unique benefits.
Numerous studies have found that soluble fiber may help reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol aka the “bad” cholesterol (1). Keeping your LDL cholesterol levels in check is one way to help keep your heart healthy.
Soluble fiber is found in foods like oats, nuts, beans, and some fruits and vegetables. Starting your day with a hearty, hot bowl of 100% whole grain Quaker® Old Fashioned Oats is one way to show your heart some love and help keep you feeling full. Research shows that consuming three grams daily of the soluble fiber from oatmeal as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce your risk of heart disease (3). A bowl of oatmeal provides two of those grams.
Digestion and Elimination
Digestive health is an important aspect of overall health and wellbeing. Insoluble fiber found in foods like brown rice, carrots, and legumes has been shown to help maintain a healthy digestive system. It helps food move more quickly through the digestive tract, promoting regularity.
Simple Tips for Increasing Your Fiber Intake
Focus on fruits and vegetables There is a reason why your dietitian encourages meeting your recommend five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. In addition to being a natural source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, they provide fiber. Add a handful of spinach to your morning smoothie, a scoop of pumpkin puree to your hot bowl of Quaker® Old Fashioned Oats, or riced cauliflower to your brown rice.
Whole grains instead of refined grains The dietary guidelines say you should make at least half of the grains you eat whole. What does that mean, and why is it important? Whole grains include oats, brown rice, quinoa, and even popcorn. Unlike refined grains, the whole variety contains all three original parts of the grain – the bran, germ, and endosperm. The bran and germ contain the majority of the fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which is what sets whole grains apart from refined grains like white rice, breads, and pasta.
Beans and legumes instead of meats 2-3 times per week Replacing meat with plant protein like beans and legumes is one way to up your fiber intake and cut back on saturated fat. Add them to chili, soup, salads, and even desserts (black bean brownies, anyone?).