With the gardens greening this time of year, or if you are like me and maybe still contemplating what to plant, I want to encourage you to think fiber. Why am I concerned about fiber? Most of us are only consuming 40% of our fiber needs, averaging 12-15 grams, when the adequate intake we need is 14g per 1000 calories, which is 22g for school aged children, 25g for women, and 38g for men.
Why should you care about fiber? While it provides no calories, since we can’t digest this carbohydrate, it helps in so many ways. (Keep in mind as you increase fiber, do so by 5 or so grams per day and drink extra water to prevent any initial constipation or bloating):
· Weight control- Fill up on less calorie dense fiber rich foods while snacking and at the beginning of meals. This reduces your feelings of hunger and calorie intake overall.
· Bowel disorders- eating a higher level of fiber will help with, and in many cases prevent constipation, diarrhea, and is key in the treatment of many disorders and diseases of the bowel, such as diverticulosis and irritable bowel syndrome.
· Metabolic syndrome, Type II diabetes, and high cholesterol leading to cardiovascular disease- Low fiber has been linked in adolescents with the hallmark signs of metabolic syndrome: large waist size, higher blood sugar, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Adequate fiber in the diet blunts the rise in blood sugar, and binds up the lousy LDL cholesterol to take it out of circulation.
So back to the garden, why not plant some higher fiber foods this summer? Or when shopping for produce at our wonderful farmers’ markets, choose hirer fiber foods for better health and nutrition. Here are some of the top fruits and vegetables to choose for fiber content per ½ cup:
Beans (navy, pinto, kidney, lima), peas and lentils- 6-9g
Raspberries, blackberries- 4g
Sweet potato- 4g
Greens(spinach, collard, turnip)- 2.5-3.5g
Broccoli, cooked- 2.8g
For a really nice guide to produce, including fiber content in the Nutrition Facts profile, Penn State Extension has the Pennsylvania Produce, a Guide to Quality Produce grown in PA free to order or download from our Publications office found at www.extension.psu.edu
Of course, don’t forget all whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains are a good source of fiber, including bran and whole grain cereals and breads. Take your children into the garden, grocery shopping, and taste test all the wonderful fiber-rich foods. Everyone’s taste buds and digestive system will thank you!