January is National Fiber Focus month
According to the National Fiber Council, many Americans lack basic information about the important role fiber can play in health.
Fiber is essential in our diets. Our bodies cannot make fiber, so we must eat it (and eat enough of it) to benefit from its many healthy properties. The newly released 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines provides daily nutritional recommendations for fiber along with other nutritional dietary components.
Fun fiber fact: Our bodies do not absorb fiber! So you might ask, how do we benefit from eating fiber? In fact, the benefits of fiber are numerous and there are many ways to include fiber in your diet.
Fiber helps to relieve and prevent constipation. You have probably heard that before! But what you might not realize is that fiber can assist with either indigestion extreme. Fiber absorbs water, so if you are experiencing constipation, fiber will maintain more water in your digestive system, helping to lubricate and move things along. On the other hand, if diarrhea is inconveniencing you with frequent trips to the restroom, fiber can help by (you guessed it) absorbing extra water! This type of water-loving fiber is called insoluble fiber. But the benefits don’t end there.
Another type of fiber, soluble fiber, offers additional nutritional benefits. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can trap fat, which means your body absorbs less. Also, your stomach takes longer to empty when your diet is high in fiber, which means sugar is absorbed more slowly. Eating enough soluble fiber can help to lower cholesterol and improve blood glucose levels!
Many plant foods contain both insoluble and soluble fiber. Some excellent sources of fiber include navy beans (9.6 grams of fiber per serving), lentils (7.8 grams), pear (5.5 grams), and avocado (5 grams). Click here to discover more fiber-rich foods and view the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.
By including a variety of fiber-rich foods in your diet, you can help to lower your risk of diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. Additionally, you will feel fuller longer and benefit from all of the vitamins and minerals found in high fiber, plant-based foods.
A nice recipe that provides a boost in fiber can be found on the USDA What’s Cooking Mixing Bowl website.
Makes: 8 Servings
Try this recipe with beans as a healthy lunch option.
1 cup brown rice (uncooked )
2 cups water
1 can low-sodium pinto beans (rinsed, about 15.5 ounces)
2 cans low-sodium black beans (rinsed, about 30 ounces)
2/3 cup low-sodium corn (drained)
2/3 cup low sodium tomatoes (diced, drained)
8 flour tortillas (10 inch)
1 cup pepper jack cheese cheddar cheese (shredded)
1. Combine rice and water in a saucepan and boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 35 - 40 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place beans, corn, and tomatoes in a large bowl and toss to mix. Add the rice and cheese, mix well.
3. Spoon the mixture evenly between tortillas and roll up.
4. Bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Tip: Make these wraps ahead of time and freeze until ready to use. These wraps are great to take for lunch and can be reheated in the microwave.
Nutrition tips like these can be learned from Michigan State University Extension health and nutrition instructors throughout the state.