When it comes to nutrients, fiber has a multitude of benefits but it's often something that we don't get enough of.
To find out how we can boost our fiber intake we spoke to NYC-based Registered Dietician Megan Wolf. As the the owner of a nutrition counseling practice, as well as the writer behind The Domesticated Wolf she's well-placed to give us fiber facts we need.
"It is recommended that women eat at least 25g of fiber a day," Megan says. "But, many Americans don't get nearly enough fiber. It helps us to feel fuller for longer on less food. In other words, we want to eat it!"
Fiber is vital to help with blood sugar control, heart health, skin health and can even help with IBS and weight loss. From keeping your digestion steady and stopping you from feeling hungry to helping to slow your body's absorption of sugar, fiber is fabulous in more ways than one, and integrating it into your diet should give you visible results.
Whether you're struggling with bowel issues (read constipation), hunger pangs, nausea, tiredness and weight gain, integrating fiber to your diet can certainly make an impact. Get ready to feel less hungry, more energetic and more balanced.
Megan's tips on how to add more fiber to your diet are, "simple, small changes that can add up to big health improvements."
Bring it on!
Kick your day off with fiber
"Start your day with fiber. Breakfast is an easy meal to help you meet your fiber goals," Megan suggests.
If you kick your day off with a hefty dose of fiber, not only will you feel great throughout the day, you'll likely make better food choices come lunch, dinner, and snack times.
"Whole grain cereals and oatmeal are packed with filling fiber," Megan says. "Or, top yogurt with ground flaxseeds, chia seeds or wheat germ."
We like whole grain English muffins topped with almond butter and wheat germ. The mix of textures is great. On mornings you're not too hungry but still want a little something, opt for strawberries and blueberries with a small side of cottage cheese.
Check out our 10 healthy, easy breakfast recipes for more fiber-rich ideas.
You've probably heard this 100 times before, but it bears repeating. "Choose whole grains whenever possible. The more refined and processed a grain is, the less fiber there is. Opt for unprocessed grains," Megan says.
Many of us are used to the white flour foods we grew up with: white rice, white pasta, white bread. The good news is that these foods now have counterparts that are fiber-rich, and they can taste just as good, too. Megan suggests trying 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice tortillas, whole wheat couscous, black rice, and whole wheat pasta.
Small changes can lead to big results. If you make pasta at home often, switch to a whole wheat variation. The fiber will help you feel fuller faster, meaning you can eat a smaller portion and feel just as satisfied.
Fruits and veggies
"Snack on fruits and vegetables," Megan recommends. "Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of fiber, so be sure to include them in your everyday diet."
If you're not a big snacker, we suggest adding fruits to your breakfast, veggies to your dinner, and either - or both - for lunch! Fruit and vegetables allow you to eat more and feel fuller, without tacking many calories onto your everyday diet.
Not sure where to start? Try adding a side of fresh berries to your morning meal. A leafy green salad is a great companion to your lunch or dinner. Spinach leaves will leave you feeling especially full, and are delicious on their own with a drizzle of light dressing. Does your sweet tooth hit in the evening? Have a Bartlett pear after dinner for a sweet, fibrous treat.
Megan's favorite fiber rich fruits are raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and apples. The veggies she raves about are carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers. We also love pears, avocados, eggplant, mushrooms, spinach, and sweet potatoes. See - we told you it was easier than you thought to find fiber!
Skin is in
When it comes to apples, potatoes, and eggplants, "Try leaving the skin on," Megan says. "So many vitamin, minerals and nutrients are trapped right under the skin of most fruits and vegetables. Plus there’s fiber. Whenever you can, don’t peel it!" (Even if it does look pretty!)
An apple is one of easiest, most portable snacks there is. Buy 'em in bulk at the market, and toss one (that you've already washed) into your handbag each day, so you're never without a little fuel. If biting into the skin isn't your thing, slice it up first.
Apples in particular are wonderful because they contain pectin, which helps your digestive system along, as well as cancer-fighting phytonutrients.
More of a potato gal? Try slicing up a sweet potato - skin on - and tossing with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and paprika. Bake at 450° for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally.
Beans, seeds, and nuts
"Bulk dishes up with beans, seeds and nuts," Megan suggests. Some of her favorites are lentils, chickpeas, black beans, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, walnuts, and almonds.
Some people can't get past the gritty, tough texture of nuts. If you're one of them, opt for smooth almond butter for the same great benefits. Love Mexican food? Add a hefty dose of black beans to your next whole wheat burrito.
"While this doesn’t come calorie free, it will certainly add more nutrition in the form of healthy fats, protein and fiber. Just watch your portions."
See that wasn't so hard? Just a few easy food swaps and you've got yourself well on the way to a fiber-friendly diet.
How will you add more fiber to your diet? What's your favorite fiber-rich food? Tweet us @wewomenUSA!