I have a question about fiber: Can you tell me the most complete way to include fiber in my diet naturally? What foods are the best sources? And how much fiber, if any amount, is too much?
Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains such as whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice are terrific sources of fiber. The best way to increase the fiber naturally in your diet is to eat a WIDE variety of all these foods. You can find fiber content (and other nutritional info) right on the food label.
Despite its current popularity, fiber used to be declasse. In fact, white bread made with refined white flour, in which the fibrous part of the wheat is removed, used to be a status symbol: The leftover fiber-rich wheat scraps were tossed into animal feed. As a result, we became constipated and cows got more regular.
Thankfully, we now realize that even though our bodies can’t digest it, fiber is an important substance in our diet. Fiber is beneficial not only because of its Draino-like effect on our system, but because it helps fight against certain cancers and heart disease.
Unfortunately, adult men in the U.S. eat only 19 grams of fiber daily, whereas as women consume 14 grams daily, on average — below the recommended 20 to 35 grams. Here’s how easy it is to boost your daily fiber intake: Mix 3/4 cup of bran flakes (5 grams of fiber) and two tablespoons of raisins (1.5 grams) in your cereal bowl in the a.m. Snack on a banana (2.5 grams) in the morning, an apple (3.5 grams) in the afternoon, and an orange (3 grams) after dinner. Include a carrot (2 grams) with lunch along with a cup of cooked broccoli (4.5 grams) and a medium baked potato with skin (4.5 grams) at dinner. Munch on three cups of air-popped popcorn (3.5 grams) in the evening, and BINGO, you’ve got 30 grams of fiber under your belt.
A cautionary note: Too much fiber, especially if your body isn’t used to it, can ignite some negative social problems such as gas. Slowly increase your intake — let your body get used to it. Drinking around eight cups of water daily will also help. Don’t go overboard on fiber: Eating more than 50-60 grams may interfere with the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
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