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During my routine library visit a few days ago, I randomly picked a great book by Frank Wood called Eat and Heal.
The book’s amazing concept is that delicious foods—which we love to eat—can prevent and cure many serious health problems including heart disease, diabetes and arthritis.
I get really inspired by the thought that our favorite foods can help us feel better. Being a holistic physician, mom of two lovely kids and someone who believes in the concept of real food and green living, I always try to find the simplest way to live a healthy and happy life.
While reading this book, I observed that food has an amazing power to heal if used appropriately. The truth is, “health is the greatest wealth.”
As a general rule, a healthy and balanced diet is a diet that contains the right amount of all the food groups. Getting the proper amount of carbohydrates, protein, vitamin, minerals, fat and fiber can boost our immune system, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Each nutrient in a balanced diet performs a distinct task necessary for the proper functioning of our body. Fiber is one of the most important nutritional elements of a healthy and balanced diet. There are two types of fiber we should be consuming:
Soluble fiber dissolves easily in water and becomes soft gel in the intestines. It helps lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Oatmeal, apples and beans are good sources of soluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber remains unchanged and speeds up food’s trip through the digestive system. It promotes bowel regularity and helps in the treatment of constipation. Wheat, whole grains and brown rice are good sources of insoluble fiber.
The daily recommended intake of fiber is 25-35 grams, but according to the National Institute of Health, Americans eat only 5-20 grams of fiber a day. This reduced intake of fiber increases the risk of digestive disorders, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Our hectic work schedules and limited time often create a challenge for preparing a healthy and balanced meal. Being equipped with some simple and smart strategies can help us change our dietary habits and optimize the nutritional value of our food.
Here are some of my favorite simple ways to boost the fiber intake in our diets:
Make a weekly menu planner: Preparation and menu planning are the first and best changes needed to make a healthy and balanced meal in limited time. I prefer to sort out some healthy, quick recipes during a weekend for upcoming weeks. I also try to select those recipes that cover the recommended daily requirement of each nutrient. With a little preparation, planning your meal in advance can help you eat a more nutritious and well-balanced diet during busy weekdays.
Shop smart: This is how I provide safe and healthy food for my family. We tend to buy and eat the same food products over and over again, which can be a major cause of nutritional deficiency in our diets. I love to be a little adventurous and change up the routine by buying and eating a variety of fruits and vegetable. Reading labels and selecting the appropriate products are another strategy that helps in healthy shopping. For example, try to find a cereal that contains at least five grams of fiber and top it off with fruits or raisins.
Start meals with a vegetable platter: I always start my main meal with a vegetable platter (preferably raw) and some healthy dressing. This allows me to fill up sooner and eat less during my meal. It is a simple way to maintain our vegetable and fiber requirement for the day.
Healthy snacking: I’ve found that unhealthy and processed snacks can be a major cause of unnecessary caloric intake, and contribute to obesity and metabolic disorders. Eating a nutritious and healthy snack can boost your daily intake of essential nutrients such as fiber and antioxidants. So I always try to snack on whole fruit (without peeling) and dry fruits as a way to get the adequate amount of fiber.
Replace white bread/rice with brown bread/rice: Studies suggest that brown rice and brown bread are both great sources of vitamin B-complex, fiber and proteins. Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and white rice, are low in essential nutrients and have been linked with a range of health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and obesity. Replacing these foods with healthier options can increase fiber intake and help us feel full longer.
Add beans to soups and stews: Just one cup of cooked black beans offers 15 grams of fiber. Adding beans in soups and stews is an excellent way to boost fiber intake. Don’t be afraid to be a little experimental while cooking. Beans taste great, satisfy hunger and help in healthy weight management.
Start with breakfast: Below I share what I used to eat for breakfast. It provided me a total of less than three grams of fiber and left me feeling unwell. A few small changes and I was able to increase my fiber intake and get closer to reaching my daily goal.
Previous breakfast menu:
1 cup orange juice or apple juice = less than 1 gram fiber
1 cup cornflakes = 1 gram fibre
1 slice white bread = 1 gram fiber
Current breakfast menu:
1 whole fruit of my choice (instead of fruit juice) = 3-4 grams fiber
1 cup raisin bran = 8 grams of fiber
2 slices whole wheat bread with almond butter and fruit toppings = more than 10 grams of fiber
I hope these steps help boost fiber intake for you and your family. What are your tips for including healthy ingredients in your diet?
Until then, eat healthy and live well!
Author: Dr. Surbhi Prapanna
Image: Joseph Choi/Flickr
Editor: Nicole Cameron