Falling Short on Fiber Foods?

If you have diabetes, you should get friendly with fiber.

Lara Rondinelli By Lara Rondinelli, RD, LDN, CDE

Fiber's been a buzz word for some time now, so you probably know it's important for your health. But if you're like most Americans, you are likely falling significantly short of the recommended intake. Why is fiber so important? And are there easy ways to up your intake?

Fiber Fights Disease
Diets rich in dietary fiber have been shown to have a number of health benefits, including a decreased risk of coronary heart disease and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Fiber has also been associated with an improvement in insulin resistance, the condition that underlies type 2 diabetes.

Other research suggests that consuming a high-fiber diet (50 grams per day) reduces blood glucose levels in people with both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. It's also been shown to improve cholesterol numbers. For all of these reasons, it appears to be especially important that people with diabetes get adequate amounts of fiber. The recommended minimum intake is 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories or about 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.

How to Get More
Most Americans are not meeting this daily goal; in fact, it's been estimated that people only eat about half the amount of fiber foods they should, getting only an average of 15 grams a day of fiber. Lack of variety, a reliance on low-fiber convenience foods, and gastrointestinal side effects all may be getting in the way. You can increase your fiber intake by cutting back on processed foods and breads, and increasing the variety of foods you eat. Remember to drink plenty of water and to make this dietary change slowly to avoid gastrointestinal distress.

Foods that deliver the most fiber:

Fruit. Most people claim they like fruit but admit to not eating enough. Fresh fruit contains more fiber than canned fruit and a lot more fiber than juice. Berries (especially raspberries and blackberries) can be especially high in fiber. If it's edible, remember to eat the fiber-rich skin on fruit (after washing it!). Aim to eat two servings of fruit every day.

Vegetables. Not only are vegetables low in calories and carbs, but they are also an excellent source of fiber. Choose fresh or frozen vegetables for the best nutrient punch. Aim to make your plate half vegetables — and try to have at least two veggies with each meal.

Legumes. Legumes include dry beans and peas and are packed full of fiber. Try adding beans to soups, stews, salads, tacos, and salsa. Don't be afraid of experimenting.

Whole Grains. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming the equivalent of at least 3 ounces a day of whole grains. Research has shown that doing so can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, may help with weight maintenance, and may lower the risk of other chronic diseases.  Barley, oats, whole wheat, quinoa, wild rice, rye, and buckwheat are considered whole grains.  

Check out the recipe below for a delicious way to add 6 grams of fiber to your day. And see the following page for a list of fiber foods and their carb counts.

Sources:

1.    Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005. 6th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, January 2005
2.    Nutrition Recommendations and Interventions for Diabetes. A position statement of the American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Care, Volume 31, Supplement 1, January 2008
3.    Whole Grains Council. http://www.wholegrainscouncil.org/


Lucky Black-Eyed Peas

Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Yield:  7 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 15.5-ounce cans black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1. Add oil to a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add green pepper and saut approximately 10 minutes.  Add garlic and saut 30 seconds.
2. Add black-eyed peas and red pepper flakes and saut 5-10 more minutes.

Nutritional Information: 140 calories, 4 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 138 mg sodium, 19g total carbohydrate, 6 grams dietary fiber, 7g protein.

This recipe is gluten-free.

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Last Modified Date: February 16, 2013

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