One of the easiest and most effective changes you can make to your diet is to eat more foods rich in fiber, and fewer foods rich in fat. There are many reasons to boost the intake of fiber while controlling fat, including increased fitness, decreased weight and better overall health.
- Normalizes bowel movements
- Helps maintain bowel health.
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Helps control blood sugar levels
- Aids in achieving healthy weight
It is a fact that most people consume too much of what they should not – things like sugar, salt and fat, and not enough of what they should – like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. That means that many people are not getting sufficient fiber in their diets, and they may suffer a variety of heath effects as a result.
Of course before you can eat more fiber you need to know where that fiber comes from. Gauging the amount of fiber in your diet is yet another reason to read nutritional labels carefully. All packaged and processed foods in the grocery store must carry these labels, and they detail such things as fat, fiber, calories and nutrient values. Getting familiar with these nutritional labels is a necessary first step to improving any diet.
One important note about increasing the level of fiber in your diet. While increasing fiber and decreasing fat is certainly a worthy goal, it is best to take things gradually until your body adjusts to the change. Those accustomed to low levels of fiber often experience bloating, cramps, gas and abdominal pain when suddenly boosting the amount of fiber in their diet. Increasing the level of fiber gradually helps to avoid these unpleasant side effects.
Most plant based foods contain at least some fiber, but some types of foods contain more than others. The only foods that do not contain fiber are animal based products. That means that meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, milk and dairy products do not contain any fiber. It is important to keep that fact in mind when planning healthy meals.
The foods highest in fiber, containing more than 6 grams per serving, include such healthy staples as:
- Dried beans
- Dried peas
- Dried fruits
- Sunflower seeds
- Sesame seeds and many types of berries.
These foods are excellent sources of fiber.
Not as high in fiber as those above, but still great sources of fiber are:
- Bran muffins
- Lima beans
- Brown rice
- Snow peas and green peas
- Sweet potatoes. Baked potatoes are also good sources of fiber, as long as the skin is consumed along with the flesh of the potato.
All these foods contain from 4 to 6 grams of fiber per serving.
Many vegetables and fruits also contain fiber, as does rye bread, wheat bead and melons. Most of these foods contain from 2 to 4 grams of fiber, so you will need to add more of them to get the most out of their fiber content.
It is important to take fiber content into account as you do your weekly grocery shopping. Getting into the habit of reading labels and choosing high fiber foods is the best way to make a long term commitment to healthier eating.
It is important to choose foods high in fiber during every trip to the grocery store. When choosing bread, crackers and other baked goods, for instance, you should strive to find whole grain varieties that are rich in fiber. Wheat and rye bread are good sources of fiber, as are bran muffins and many kinds of cereal.
Choosing cereals that are rich in fiber is a great way to increase the level of fiber intake while enjoying a delicious breakfast every morning. Cereals that contain wheat bran and oat bran can be excellent sources of fiber. The most important thing is to read the nutritional label and not rely simply on the claims made on the box.
Many people are under the assumption that cooking fresh vegetables and other fiber rich foods destroys their fiber content, but luckily this is not the case. While it is true that overcooking certain vegetables can result in some loss of nutrients, cooking has no effect whatsoever on fiber content. So feel free to prepare those healthy foods any way you want.