Fiber is a nutrient most Americans do not get enough of but it is essential for good health and a stable digestive system.
Most of us should increase our fiber intake by double!
The average American only gets 10-15 grams per day, whereas 25 – 30 grams is more ideal.
One of my husband’s favorite foods is artichokes cooked in a pressure cooker.
My mother-in-law would place a small amount of water in a pressure cooker.
Set raw artichokes in the pressure cooker, upright; and cook.
To serve, she placed the artichoke, upright, in a bowl, which about ¼ cup of melted butter.
Leaves would be plucked off, dipped in the butter, and the meat scraped off, using your teeth.
Fiber in our bodies
Actually fiber is a carbohydrate, but your body doesn’t possess the enzymes to break fiber down like it does sucrose.
Fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water, making a thick gel.
Known as the “sticky” fiber and is more effective at reducing LDL.
Found in fruits, root vegetables, and lentils.
Insoluble fiber is found in whole-grain products such as whole-wheat flour, whole-grain bread, and pasta, as well as some rice and seeds.
Fiber is a carbohydrate comprised of long chains of sugar molecules.
However, unlike other carbs, they resist digestion in the stomach.
This means they reach the large intestine intact.
Fiber and our health
Fiber, particularly the soluble kind, binds to bile (which is a bitter liquid that breaks down fat), causing it to be excreted.
To replace the bile, the liver must pull cholesterol out of the bloodstream, which may explain how fiber lowers the risk of heart disease.
High fiber diets reduce bad cholesterol, LDL and help diabetics control their blood sugar.
A high-fiber diet counters the increased risk of colon cancer caused by eating processed meats.
Fiber is an important source of food for your gut flora.
What is flora?
Flora are the microbes including GOOD bacteria and fungi that live in your intestines.
Flora ferment fiber into fatty acids they can feed on.
Keeping these bacteria healthy is vital!
They produce enzymes to help digest other foods and influence your health in ways that scientists are only beginning to understand.
This “good bacteria” in your gut also improves your immune system by producing inflammation-reducing compounds.
Supposedly, eating fiber helps you maintain a healthy weight because it helps you feel fuller, longer, and eat less.
But, I eat 1/3 cup of fiber-rich oatmeal every weekday morning, within 1 hour of waking up and I am usually starving two hours later. Great opportunity for a piece of fruit.
I eat it to maintain good cholesterol numbers!
The High-Fiber Diet
The F-Plan Diet became popular in the 1980s after Dr. Denis Burkitt connected the benefits of traditional rural African diets with their high fiber intake.
The idea went out of fashion as the focus moved to reduce carbs, but it is now becoming popular again.
As a weight loss plan, high-fiber diets reduce calories while increasing fiber.
The diet focuses on eating plenty of vegetables and whole grains, so it fits with nutrition guidelines on healthy eating and is recommended by many dietitians.
The foods eaten can reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and other diseases related to insulin resistance.
Soluble fiber reduces blood sugar spikes after meals, which helps to avoid insulin resistance.
However, the F-Plan includes foods, we don’t find appealing, and if you do not increase your water intake, it can cause short term constipation.
Ways to get additional fiber
For breakfast, eat a whole grain cereal such as shredded wheat or bran flakes.
Make sure you are reading labels because many brands of cereal that contain high fiber levels, also contain high sugar – avoid these.
Some brands use the term “whole-grain flour” which is NOT the same as “whole wheat.
If you like toast for breakfast, choose brands with higher fiber. Most bread has about 2 – 5 grams per slice. Use the same high fiber bread for your sandwiches at lunch.
Snack on fruit throughout the day.
Or you can take Metamucil each day…just at it to your water.
Chickpea Egg Salad Sandwich
Chickpeas also called garbanzo beans and, in Italy Ceci, have a firm texture and mild, nutlike flavor.
They are used extensively in Mediterranean and Middle East cuisine.
They are available canned, dried and in some areas fresh.
An excellent source of protein and fiber; here is a very simple lunch recipe.
Chickpea Boiled Egg Sandwich
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup canned chickpeas, drained
- 2 tsp mayo
- 1/8 tsp ground turmeric
- pinch of Kosher salt
- pinch of ground black pepper
- In a small pot, place the two egg and cover them in water.
- Heat the water until at a rolling boil. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Drain water. Run cool water over the eggs.
- Peel both eggs and slice into a small mixing bowl.
- Add mayo, turmeric, chickpeas, salt and pepper - using a fork, mash all ingredients together until well combined.
- Spread between two slices of bread. Enjoy.