What is fiber and how much do you need?
Fiber is any non-digestible, plant-derived carbohydrate that comes in two forms- soluble and insoluble. As the name suggests, soluble fibers mix with water from the food you eat and result in the formation of a gel in the stomach which helps prevent unwanted food components to get absorbed by the body. This means that soluble fibers reduce the production of cholesterol in our body. On the other hand, insoluble fibers are known as roughage and their main function is to make the stool bulky which makes it easier to excrete. This type of fiber doesn’t break down in the gut. Skipping your daily dose of fiber may lead to constipation.
According Dr. Ritika Samaddar, a Delhi based nutritionist, “Fiber is a very important part of our daily diet and we should include both types as it is very important to maintain a healthy balance. Soluble fibers are generally recommended to people suffering from diabetes or high sugar as they dissolve and keep the sugar level under control. Insoluble fibers help in losing weight and also maintain the smooth functioning of the gastric system. An average adult should take about 15 grams of fiber every day.”
Increasing fiber in your diet is easier than you think. Before you do, here’s a word of caution. While increasing your fiber intake don’t forget to keep your body well hydrated. Fiber tends to pull water into the intestines which makes it essential to increase your fluid consumption as well.
Take a look at some of our favourite fiber-rich foods along with recipes to use them in exciting ways.
Eat oats but not just for breakfast
Oats are one of the best sources of fiber. It has both soluble and insoluble fibers. Oats can be eaten in many different forms and not just as a breakfast cereal. You can prepare an oats dosa or an uttapam. Begin your day with a fiber boost that will help you glide through.
Fiber content per 100 grams: 1.7 grams
(Recipe: Oats Idli)
(Recipe: Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies)
Besides being high in protein, lentils are rich in dietary fiber. Take an occasional break from the conventional dal and use lentils creatively. You could use them in soups or salads. Fiber and carbohydrates found in lentils help in increasing your energy levels and since they are digested slowly, the energy boost lasts longer. This is what we call slow-burning energy that keeps you active for longer.
Fiber content in boiled lentils per 100 grams: 8 grams
(Recipe: Lentil and Charred Broccoli Salad)
(Recipe: Lentil Soup)
The super seed
Flaxseeds are great for a fiber boost. Just add them into smoothies or use as a topping over your breakfast cereal. Some nutritionists recommend ground flaxseeds over whole seeds as it’s easier to digest the former. Whole seeds may pass through your gut undigested without imbibing all the benefits. You can use ground flaxeed for baking cookies, muffins or breads and even in chappati dough.
Fiber content per 100 grams: 27 grams
(Recipe: Apple Chia Seed Smoothie)
(Recipe: Nut and Seed Crusted Cottage Cheese)
Fruits like pears and apples are great sources of fiber. Bite on them whole, toss chopped pieces with salads or blend them into smoothies. Don’t make the mistake of shaving off the peel as it is abundant in fiber.
Fiber content in apples per 100 grams: 2.4 grams
Fiber content in pears per 100 grams: 3.1 grams
(Recipe: Poached Pear Salad)
(Recipe: Apple Pear Crumble)
Bring home some broccoli
Along with a huge dose of Vitamin C and Calcium, broccoli is also packed with fiber. It’s better to steam or saute it lightly till it is bright green to retain the fiber content and nutrients.
Fiber content per 100 grams: 2.6 grams
(Recipe: Broccoli Bake)
(Recipe: Broccoli Soup)
The fiber content is as per the United States Department of Agricultural Research Service
Despite being the talk of the town, the importance of fiber remains underrated. Keeping the benefits of an efficient bowel system aside, there’s just so much that a high-fiber diet can do for you. It is a heart hero and reduces the risk of stroke and hypertension. It can help you manage your weight by keeping you full for longer and curbing unwanted cravings. It can even regulate the speed of digestion and keep your blood sugar levels in check.