Fiber is a form of indigestible carbohydrates that promotes intestinal health, heart-health, blood sugar control, satiety and weight control. The fact the fiber isn't digestible is what gives it its unique healthful properties. It travels through your body like a sponge, absorbing bile acids, cholesterol and other toxins along the way. Fiber also slows your body's uptake of glucose, keeping your blood sugar levels more stable, and it helps you feel full longer, resulting in you eating less.
According to the Institute of Medicine, to optimally benefit from fiber, women under 50 years old should get at least 25 grams of fiber per day -- the average American diet contains a mere 15 grams.
Fiber is naturally found in fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. And with the growing demand for fiber-rich foods, food manufacturers are including more vegetables, fruits and whole grains in their products. Getting 25 grams of fiber every day has never been easier or more delicious.
Still not convinced? Here are eight creative and tasty ways to increase your fiber intake. These tips are so flavorful, you will never equate fiber and bland, unsatisfying diet again.
Dark leafy green and vegetable salads are inherently high in fiber. By adding cooked whole grains, such as barley, wheat berries, brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat, to your salad bowl, you not only increase the fiber, you also add texture with a delicate chew – a nice contrast to crunchy vegetables.
Brighten up your whole grain hot and cold cereals as well as whole grain toaster waffles with fresh fruit and crunchy nuts. Stir blueberries and almonds into your oatmeal or oat bran. Top whole grain waffles with banana slices, toasted walnuts and a dollop of sour cream or yogurt. And don't forget to slather whole grain toast or bagels with pureed fruit or fruit preserves.
Pilafs and grain salads are versatile dishes that can be deliciously mixed with a near endless array of ingredients. Try a seven grain pilaf tossed with crumbled feta, roasted red peppers, olives and chopped fresh parsley. Make a tropical grain salad by cooking brown rice with coconut milk (in place of the water) and mix it with crushed pineapple, green onions, shredded coconut and chopped macadamia nuts.
Instead of using breadcrumbs and flour to coat poultry or top-crust fish, use a mixture of crushed whole grain cereal or shredded wheat and breadcrumbs. Cereal isn't just for breakfast.
Crumble whole grain granola bars on top of ice cream or yogurt. Finely crush granola, mix with butter and use as a crust for cheesecakes. Crushed granola also adds a tasty crunch to hot fruit crumbles.
The whole grain and multi-grain crackers and chips of today taste far better than the first fiber-full baked snacks. However, you can further improve their flavor by pairing them with creamy dips or chunky salsas. Puree cream cheese or goat cheese with fresh herbs, garlic and a bit of curry for a Middle Eastern inspired appetizer. Make a fruit salsa with chopped strawberries, peaches, jalapeno and cilantro as a sweet-hot side for chips. Or you can simply top whole grain crackers with irresistible artisan cheeses. (Try these dynamite dips.)
Whole grains can become satisfying stuffings for vegetables, fruit, poultry, pork or pastries when combined with other ingredients. Fill bell peppers with brown rice and seasoned ground turkey. Top roasted peach halves with a mixture of quinoa, currants and sour cream. Roll pilaf, sun-dried tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms and fresh herbs in flattened chicken breasts or boneless pork loins. Wrap cooked grains, minced vegetables and shredded cheese in puff pastry or phyllo.
When your busy schedule requires quick-to-fix meals, reach for convenient frozen entrees made with whole grains and all natural ingredients. Instead of a processed preservative-heavy microwave dinner that is high in sodium, calories and fat, opt for wholesome entrees high in fiber, protein and - equally important - flavor. Look for all natural whole grain pizzas, pocket sandwiches filled with vegetables and lean proteins, and the increasing array of nutritious frozen dinners in your whole foods market or supermarket freezer aisle.
Today's high-fiber foods can seamlessly replace less nutritious items in your diet. Even small changes, such as eating whole grain cereal for breakfast or whole grain pilafs for dinner can deliciously improve your health. If you have been reluctant to try the growing array of whole grain products, give a new fiber-rich food a try and sink your teeth into the satisfying flavors you've been missing.
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