As a healthy eater you may be up on your need for protein, vitamins, and minerals, but how much do you know about dietary fiber? This nutrient has all kinds of health benefits, but most Americans don’t get nearly enough. Here at Zing, we want to change that. Below you’ll learn why fiber is the best nutrient you almost never hear about, how you can use fall produce to increase your intake, and one big reason why Zing Bars may be the best snack food you can add to your rotation this fall.
The Benefits of FiberWhen you think about fiber, you probably think of its role in digestive health. A well-known benefit is that it helps prevent or reduce constipation and improve regularity. But fiber does so much more:
- Improves digestion. Not only is it a food source for healthy bacteria in our intestines, it also strengthens and conditions the muscles surrounding the stomach and intestines to move food through more easily.
- Lowers cholesterol levels. Dietary fiber absorbs LDL (the bad) cholesterol in your digestive tract, lowering blood levels and ultimately reducing your risk for heart disease.
- Aids in weight control. Fiber helps the brain recognize when you’re full, so you tend to eat less when you have high-fiber meals and snacks. Highly refined foods (products made from flour, sugar and white rice) have no fiber to tell the brain “enough,” so we consume far more than we need, which then gets stored as fat.
Falling Short on FiberThe Institute of Medicine estimates that men need about 38 grams of fiber per day, while women need 25 grams. Unfortunately, we are falling far short of these recommendations, says Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, with the average adult getting only 15 grams of fiber daily. So what can we do to change that?
Fall Finds with FiberYou can up your fiber intake by taking advantage of seasonal fresh produce. Root vegetables are high-fiber foods to try, with pumpkin, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes each providing at least 2 to 3 grams per serving. In addition to vegetables, the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines list fruits, nuts, legumes such as beans and peas, and whole grains as the best sources of dietary fiber. These are a few fall dishes that pack a fiber punch, plus give you a good dose of other essential nutrients and antioxidants.
- Roasted root vegetables
- Split pea soup made with onions, parsnips, and carrots
- Baked apples with cinnamon and pecans
- Pureed sweet potatoes with green onions
- Stewed pears with ginger and parsnips
- Spaghetti squash with fresh tomato and mushroom sauce
- Lentil stew with root vegetables
- Vegetarian chili with beans