Increasing dietary fiber can be easy |

Increasing dietary fiber can be easy

Jennifer Trew / For the Tahoe Daily Tribune

Jennifer Trew

What is fiber? Dietary fiber is the indigestible carbohydrate part of all plant foods. Plant foods include fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, and nuts. Since fiber is not digested, it is not used for energy like other carbohydrates. Dietary fiber is often referred to as “roughage.” Dietary fiber helps to move food through our digestive system and it absorbs water. There are many benefits to consuming a high-fiber diet such as lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes; assisting in weight loss; and helping prevent or relieve constipation. Foods high in fiber are generally low in calories and fat. High-fiber foods take longer to chew, helping you eat more slowly and feel full after a meal.

There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is found in apples, citrus, beans, peas, oats and barley. Soluble fiber can help lower your cholesterol because it binds to fatty acids in the digestive tract. Blood sugar levels can also be lowered, since soluble fiber slows down absorption of carbohydrates.

Insoluble fiber promotes movement of digesting food though the digestive system, helping with regularity and preventing constipation. Foods high in insoluble fiber include whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, seeds, potato skins and dark leafy vegetables.

So, how much fiber should we eat? The American Dietetic Association recommends adults eat 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day. Most Americans are eating between 12 to 18 grams a day. Replacing refined and processed foods with those made from whole grains greatly increases your fiber intake. The refining process used to make white bread and white pasta removes the outer coat of the grain, which is where most of the fiber is located.

Eating skins from fruits such as apples and vegetables such as potatoes can also increase your fiber intake.

Bread and pasta made from whole wheat flour are loaded with fiber. Some have as much as 6 to 8 grams per serving. Whole foods are better than fiber supplements because they provide other nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Plus a serving of raspberries tastes much better than a supplement.

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Increase fiber in your diet gradually, over a few weeks. If you add too much fiber too quickly, it can cause intestinal gas, bloating and abdominal cramping. Also, drink plenty of water to help fiber work best. Without plenty of water, fiber can cause constipation.

Putting beans on a salad, raspberries on oatmeal or cold cereal can help add more fiber. Have a goal of eating at least one serving of fruit or vegetable at each meal and snack and try these high-fiber, low-fat muffins for breakfast.

Cereal Muffins

2 1⁄2 cups whole wheat flour

1 1⁄4 cups sugar

2 1⁄2 teaspoons baking soda

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

2 heaping teaspoons cinnamon (adjust to taste)

1 cup All-Bran bran buds cereal

2 cups low fat buttermilk

1⁄2 cup liquid egg substitute

1⁄2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1⁄4 cup canola oil

3⁄4 cup ground flaxseed

3⁄4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cereal. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, egg substitute, applesauce, oil, flaxseed and raisins. Once mixed, pour liquid into flour mixture and combine until well mixed.

Spray a muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon 1⁄4 cup of batter into each muffin cup. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 24 muffins.

Each muffin has 135 calories and has 5.2 grams of fiber and they are delicious. You can make these all at once or in small batches and store the extra batter in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Store baked muffins in an airtight container.

” Jennifer Trew is a registered dietitian with Barton Memorial Hospital.