Disclosure: This post was sponsored by The Quaker Oats Company. Thank you for supporting our work here at Food Heaven!
Many people don’t realize this, but before creating Food Heaven Made Easy, Wendy and I used to work for the New York City Department of Health in the Bronx.
We taught cooking demos and nutrition workshops at farmers markets located in communities with limited access to fresh produce. Every week, we showed people how to eat healthier by adding more plant-based foods into their diet.
That was almost 10 years ago (holy-ish time flies!), but we can still remember our absolute favorite topic to teach.
Can you guess what it was?
That’s right, as dietitians, fiber is basically our best friend. It has a plethora of health benefits, like helping to reduce cholesterol, reducing risks for cardiovascular disease, and helping to keep you regular. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who ate foods rich in fiber, specifically about 21 grams per day, had 12% less coronary heart disease and 11% less cardiovascular disease compared to those eating 5 grams or less daily.
The problem is that most people aren’t getting enough fiber in their diet. In fact, the CDC found that the average fiber intake of adult men and women on a given day was 18 and 15 grams, respectively. This is a lot less than the recommended daily fiber intake, which is 25 grams a day for women and 38 grams for men.
You may be wondering: where do you find fiber anyway?
The answer is simple: plant-based foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains tend to be good sources of fiber. On the flip side, animal products do not contain any fiber. Eggs and fish, for example, are perfectly healthy but they’re fiberless (most of our workshop participants were really surprised by this).
Here is a snapshot of a few foods that are naturally rich in fiber:
- 1 cup of cooked lentils = 16 grams of fiber
- 1/2 cup of dry Quaker oats = 4 grams of fiber
- 1 medium apple = 4 grams of fiber
- 1 cup fresh strawberries = 3 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of cooked black beans = 15 grams of fiber
Here are our top 5 ways to meet our daily fiber needs:
1. We aim to have three servings of whole grains daily, starting with oats
One of our favorite ways to get whole grains in is by starting our day off with a warm bowl of Quaker oats. We love oats because they are super cost effective and nutritious and versatile. Oats are naturally low in fat, sugar and sodium, and are a good source of important vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B1, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese.
Oats are also a 100% whole grain and a good source of fiber, which helps to support digestive health. It’s easy to pair oatmeal with other fiber-containing foods. For example, it can be topped with 1 cup of berries and/or a serving of nuts/seeds. The possibilities are endless!
2. We eat 3 cups of vegetables per day
Vegetables are naturally high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting compounds known as phytochemicals. Adding 3 servings of vegetables into your day will help ensure that you are meeting your daily requirements.
Vegetables don’t have to be limited to salad and stir fry, either. We love adding veggies to burritos, tacos, and even as the toppings on pizza. You can also sneak them into dishes in the form of cauliflower rice (just pulse cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles rice) or spiralized noodles (check out these recipes . Vegetables also make the perfect base for smoothies and soup.
3. We incorporate fruits into our snacks
We like to think of fruit as nature’s candy. In addition to vegetables, fruits are good sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, nuts and phytochemicals. It’s always a good idea to choose fresh fruit that is in-season, because it’s going to taste better and cost less. For example, you will never find us eating watermelon in January because….no thanks, it won’t be good.
If you are curious which fruits are in season in your area, this guide is super helpful. If you can’t buy fresh, frozen fruit is another great option. Because fruits (and veggies) are frozen at the peak of freshness, the nutritional properties stay intact.
4. We pair those fruits with nuts and seeds (or nut butter!)
Many people are afraid of nuts and seeds because of their high-fat content, but it’s good to remember that these foods contain mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
It’s true, nuts and seeds do have more calories per gram when compared to carbs and proteins, so aim to keep your portion of nuts and seeds to about ¼ of a cup per serving. We love pairing hemp seeds with a banana for a snack. Or slicing a fresh apple or pear and dipping it in crunchy peanut butter.
5. We eat beans frequently.
Beans are often overlooked as a superfood, but they are one of our absolute favs. One cup lentils, for example, contain about 16 grams of dietary fiber, which is 64% of the recommended daily value. Try using beans as the base of tacos, in your salad, or pureed into a dip. Our favorite beans tend to be black beans or chickpeas. We love black beans to keep for a quick dinner or chickpeas roasted to top on salads.
And that’s that…the 5 ways we make sure we are eating enough fiber! What about you? What are your favorite fiber-rich foods? Let us know in the comments below. xo