Fiber is the indigestible part of plants that passes through the human digestive system without being absorbed by the body. While this may sound useless at first, in fact, it's very important. The human body needs this roughage to keep the digestive tract healthy. Eating a diet rich in fiber regulates blood sugar, combats diabetes and obesity, promotes heart and colon health, fights constipation, helps with weight management and may reduce the risk of cancer.
Due to the excessive processing of modern food, Americans now eat only 10 percent of the fiber we consumed just 100 years ago. Though it has no nutritional value itself, fiber vastly improves our bodies' ability to absorb the nutrients in the food we are eating. Doctors recommend that adults consume between 25 and 35 grams of fiber each day.
It may sound like simple advice, but increasing your consumption of fruits and veggies is an excellent and painless way to increase your fiber intake. Raspberries have a whopping 8 grams of fiber per cup. Apples, pears, blueberries and grapefruit are other good choices. Try eating your fruit rather than drinking it as juice. While juice still has vitamins and minerals, most juices remove the dietary fiber, which deprives your body of the chance to get that extra roughage.
Some veggies that have especially high fiber content are kale, peas, sweet potatoes, winter squash, avocadoes, corn, broccoli and spinach. Try to plan each meal of your day to include a couple of servings of fruits and veggies and you will vastly increase your fiber intake in no time at all.
The old saying, "The whiter the bread, the quicker you're dead" may not be far from the truth. In the refining process, grains are stripped of husk, bran, fiber, and other nutrients. The processed flour left behind may make fluffy cakes, but it is not good for you. When shopping, make sure you look for products that use the word "whole" in their name. Breads and pastas that advertise themselves as "wheat" may only contain a small percentage of whole grain flour, so the end product is vastly lower in nutritional value. Try some tasty new grains like whole oats, brown rice, millet, bulgur, barley, quinoa, buckwheat and rye. You might just be delighted with the new textures and flavors!
Beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Kidney, lentil, lima and black beans all have 13 or more grams of fiber per cup. They taste great and can make a wonderful addition to any meal. Make a burrito, cook up a tasty soup, slip them into your favorite casserole or sprinkle them on a spicy salad.
Nuts and seeds also have excellent health benefits and lots of fiber. Toss together a healthy mix and keep it in your purse or car for a quick snack. Or get creative and add them to salads, pasta dishes, soups, stir-fries, casseroles, cookies and fruit breads.
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