(2minutes to read)
As a nation we eat our way through over 22 million cans of Watties baked beans a year but According to the New Zealand Nutrition Foundation we are eating less than half our recommended daily intake which is just 25g fiber each day for women and 30g fiber each day for men.
We are constantly being told by Doctors and Health Officials to eat more fiber and to keep regular bowel movements.
What are the best fiber rich foods to eat?
And what happens if we eat too much of it?
Back in the 1970s, the late Dr. Denis Burkitt wrote an international bestseller called “Don’t forget Fiber in your diet.” In the book he compared the pattern of diseases in African hospitals with Western diseases. He discovered many Western diseases which were rare in Africa, were the result of our diet and lifestyle.
The standard western diet is high in animal products such as meat, cheese and milk. Most of us don’t eat enough fiber rich foods which contain powerful protective agents, such as antioxidants and phytochemicals which protect us from bowel disorders and heart disease.
Fiber can also help weight control making us feel fuller for longer and help with the management of diseases such as diabetes and some cancers.
The good news is just by making a few daily adjustments we can all increase our fiber consumption and improve the health of our bowels.
In New Zealand we obtain most of our fiber from five main sources: bread, vegetables, fruit, potatoes/kumara and breakfast cereals.
Fiber can only be found in plant products, in two forms – soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber like oats, legumes, vegetables and fruits acts like a sponge absorbing water and making the bowel contents softer and able to move through the system more easily. Soluble fiber also helps lower blood cholesterol and improves blood glucose control.
Insoluble fiber like bread, wholegrain cereals, whole wheat pasta and corn acts as a ‘bulking agent’ which, with soluble fiber, helps to keep us regular. This fiber picks up waste along the way and helps expel everything from the body.
This is great for people with conditions such as constipation, diverticular disease and hemorrhoids.
Four tips to add extra fiber to your diet:
Tip #1. Aim for at least 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Leave the skin on, as it contains much of the fiber. Fruit and vegetable juices contain little or no fiber.
Approximate grams of fiber for each standard size of the following fruits and vegetables: Pears(5.5g), Parsnip (5.8g), Broccoli (2.4g cup), Brussels Sprouts (0.5g each), Carrots (2.9g per 100g serve), spinach (7.5g bunch raw).
Tip #2. Choose wholegrain varieties of bread, cereals, rice and pasta. When baking, try substituting half of the white flour with whole meal flour.
Approximate grams of fiber in cooked long-grain brown rice (1.8 g per 100g serve).
Tip #3. High-fiber breakfast options include porridge or muesli. Increase the fiber further by adding oatbran or wheatgerm, nuts, seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin) and fruit (fresh, canned).
Approximate grams of fiber in the following: Quinoa (5.2 g per one-cup serving cooked), Flax Seeds( 1.9g per teaspoon serving), Chia Seeds ( 10.6g per ounce).
Tip #4. Try adding chickpeas, kidney beans or lentils to soups, casseroles.
Approximate grams of fiber in the following: Amaranth (5.2 g per one-cup serving), Red lentils (4g of fiber per half-cup serving, before cooking), Cooked black beans (15g per one-cup serving), White beans (18.6g per one-cup serving).
If you are eating more fiber-rich foods, drink more water than usual, as fiber absorbs water in the body. The more liquids you consume the easier it is to pass everything through the system.
What happens if you eat too much fiber?
Believe it or not there is such a thing as consumption of too much fiber which can give you some unwanted side effects such as wind, bloating and over active bowels.
Add more fiber to your diet slowly to get your body used to it. Digestive discomfort may mean you need to cut back a bit. Try and stick to the NZ recommended fiber levels per day (25g for women and 30g for men).
High-fiber diets are not recommended for young (preschool) children as they can be too filling, preventing young children eating enough food to meet their daily vitamin and mineral needs.
If you have any concerns about your health or have been advised to have a low fiber diet, ask your Doctor for advice before increasing your fiber intake.
Remember, when it comes to food, moderation is key.
Eat a well-balanced diet and listen to your body.