January is National Fiber Focus Month

- January 10, 2019

“New year, new me” is the mantra for many New Year’s wellness resolutions: join a gym, go on a diet, lose weight, get healthy! While the New Year’s magazine covers typically sell resolution seekers on some dietary villain (like carbs, fats, etc), January is also a national focus month for every nutritionist’s favorite nutrition hero: Fiber.

Fiber refers to the carbohydrate components of plant foods that we can’t digest and absorb. Because we can’t absorb fiber, it spends a lot of time in our digestive tracts and providing several benefits for our bodies, including:

  • Keeping your digestive tract moving and keeps you regular
  • Helping you feel full and eat fewer calories 😋
  • Keeping the bacteria in your gut balanced
  • Helping to lower your cholesterol levels ❤️
  • Reduce your risk of colon cancer ⚕️

Eat More Fiber! The benefits of fiber are seemingly never-ending, but according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015, most Americans aren’t consuming recommended amounts. Daily fiber intake is estimated to be about 15g per day, which is only half of the recommended intake levels for adults (28-35g per day). This is primarily due to low intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts/seed, and beans/legumes.

Fun Fact: Fiber is a catch all term for a lot of different types carbohydrates that we can’t digest; the health benefits of fiber depend on the types we eat. On food labels, fiber is divided into two different major categories – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is able to hold water (think of the white, inside part of the apple that holds the juice), and insoluble fiber resists absorbing water (think of the skin of the apple). Getting both types of fiber in your diet from plant-based foods is ideal for getting all of fibers’ benefits!

Tips When Increasing Fiber Intake:

  • Start slow!
    • it takes time for your gut to adapt to eating more fiber without discomfort.
  • Watch out for ‘high fiber’ cereals and bars!
    • Some of these in the diet are okay, but they contain added fibers that can cause significant gastrointestinal discomfort.
    • The fiber added to these bars can keep your gut bacteria balanced but don’t have all of the other benefits of fibers from plant-based foods
  • Variety is the key!
    • Try reaching the recommended intakes for fiber through a variety of foods to get all of fibers’ benefits
    • No one source of fiber can do it all! Eating a variety of plant-based foods can make sure you get all of fibers’ benefits

Did You Know? Popcorn is one of the top sources of dietary fiber intake in America! Choose popcorns with less added sodium and fat for a healthy, fiber-filled snack.

Fiber-full Swaps To Get You Started!:

  1. Swap fruit juices and flavored drinks for whole fruit
  2. Swap a serving of meat for a serving of beans
  3. Swap white bread for 100% whole wheat bread
  4. Swap mashed potatoes for baked potatoes with the skin
  5. Swap snacks like potato chips for nuts, seeds and/or dried fruits
  6. Swap candy at the movies for popcorn

Seasonal High-Fiber Recipe Ideas To Google:

  • Crockpot White Bean Chicken Chili
  • Oven-Roasted Carrots & Parsnips
  • Winter Farro Salad with Kale
  • Baked Apples with Peanut Butter
  • Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole
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