How to maximize fiber intake

fiber rich foods

Many people do not get enough fiber through their dietary patterns. This blog post tries to bring out dietary guidelines that encourage the consumption of healthy foods: in this case, foods high in dietary fiber such as vegetables, especially legumes, fruit and wholegrain foods. Fiber is important for health, helps prevent some chronic diseases and helps with weight control.

Following the earlier posts in this blog, one is expected to choose the appropriate number of serves based on age and sex from plant foods (whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruit, seeds, nuts),  to provide an adequate intake of dietary fiber.

Discretionary choices
  • Limit discretionary choices as these tend to be low in fiber and may take the place of some of the serves from the high fiber food groups.

Five Food Groups

  1. Fruit should be chosen as fresh or canned fruit. Most fruit juices have little or no dietary fiber.
  2. Use wholegrain bread and breakfast cereals, brown rice and wholemeal pasta more often than white or more refined varieties.
  3. Eat edible skins on fruit and vegetables, where appropriate.
  4. Include legumes, nuts, and seeds.
  5. Swap some meat or chicken for cooked/canned legumes or grated vegetables.

Try to avoid making up for a low fiber eating pattern by using fiber supplements or foods with concentrated fiber such as brans or psyllium husk. You may get enough fiber, but not the different types of fibers and other essential nutrients provided by a variety of vegetables, legumes, fruits, wholegrain bread and cereals, nuts and seeds.

Three main types of dietary fiber fit into the categories of insoluble fiber, soluble fiber, and resistant starch.

Insoluble fiber

Insoluble fiber is particularly good for the digestive system. It is bulky and absorbs water so it is filling for few kilo-joules, keeps stools soft and bulky and bowels regular. It also helps prevent some bowel problems such as diverticular disease, hemorrhoids, and constipation. Plant foods high in dietary fiber are also associated with a reduced risk of bowel cancer.

Foods high in insoluble fiber include wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit, vegetables (especially the skins), legumes/beans, and nuts and seeds. Vegetables and fruits have the added advantage of being low in kilo-joules.

Soluble fiber

Soluble fiber works differently. It still contributes to satiety but can also have favorable effects on blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels. Foods high in soluble fiber include fruits, vegetables, legumes, barley and oats.

Resistant starch

When resistant starch travels undigested to the large intestine it is processed by ‘good’ bacteria and the by-products help keep the bowel lining healthy. Foods rich in resistant starch include under-ripe bananas, cooked potato that has been cooled, legumes such as chickpeas and lentils, wholegrain products such as rye bread and pasta cooked to the al dente stage.
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