Fiber is one nutrient we Americans do not get enough of. Why?
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average amount we eat is 16 grams a day. Men eat a bit more, 18 grams on average and females 15 grams per day.
How much fiber do you eat? Adults are recommended to eat 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed a day. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, you should eat 28 grams of fiber. That calculates to a shortfall of 12 grams of fiber a day.
What does 12 grams of fiber look like? One medium pear (5 grams) and a half cup of beans (7 grams) or a medium apple with skin (3 grams) and three quarters cup of high fiber breakfast cereal (9 grams). Alternatively, enjoy a half-cup of artichoke (7 grams) and one half cup of avocado (5 grams).
Dietary fiber is the non-digestible form of carbohydrate found in plant foods, including fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, beans, nuts and seeds. It provides bulk in the diet, which helps promote healthy gastrointestinal function and contributes to a feeling of fullness after eating. According to USDA, a high fiber diet may also help in weight management; reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, and help improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
So why are American who are eating 2000 calories a day not reaching the 28-gram goal? It might be that, on average, we are not eating enough high fiber foods like beans and high fiber cereals every day.
The DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean Diets recommend eating 4 to 5 servings of nuts, seeds and legumes per week, and base every meal on these foods every day, respectively.
Both diets recommend eating whole grains every day. Not even whole grain is high in fiber, but most high fiber cereals are also whole grains.
Check out how much fiber you are eating in one day. Look at the food label and portion size to find out how many grams of fiber are in what you are eating.
Remember to increase the amount of water you drink whenever you increase your fiber.
Lentils are a great low-cost source of fiber. One half cup has 8 grams of fiber. In the dried form, lentils do not require soaking like other pulses such as beans, peas, and chickpeas.
Here is how to cook dried lentils. First rinse, then to one cup of dry lentils add 3 cups of liquid. The liquid can be water or low-sodium chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Cover tightly and simmer until done. Whole lentils take between 15 and 20 minutes. Split lentils, between 5 and 7 minutes. Add cooked lentils to soup or salads, make hummus, or even add to your Saturday morning pancakes.
Here is a great recipe that will boost your fiber intake.
Greek Lentil Salad
2 cups cooked green lentils
½ cup Kalamata olives
½ cup chopped red onion
1/1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes
½ cup chopped green pepper
1 cup diced cucumber
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
In a large bowl, combine lentils, olives, onion, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumber, feta cheese and parsley. Whisk oil, lemon juice and oregano together. Toss mixture with dressing to coat. Serve over your favorite fresh greens. Enjoy!
Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.