Fiber packs a big punch when it comes to your health. Research shows it helps lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar levels and aid in weight loss, which can ease pressure on joints. Scientists also have discovered that nutrients in dietary fiber help promote beneficial gut bacteria, which may reduce inflammation. And new research found that eating a high-fiber diet is linked with a lower risk for knee osteoarthritis and pain.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends about 30 grams of dietary fiber a day for men and 25 grams for women – much more than the 18 and 15 grams, respectively, that Americans typically consume. The good news is that adding just one fruit, vegetable or whole grain to every meal or snack can help.
“If your diet is already plant-based, you’re probably in good shape. If it’s not, the easy fix is to supplement what you’re already eating with plant-based foods,” says registered dietitian Heidi Turner, a medical nutrition therapist at the Seattle Arthritis Clinic in Washington.
But don’t substitute with a fiber supplement, she adds. “They’re just giving you fiber, not the phytonutrients that can have anti-inflammatory effects in the body. It’s about getting lots of foods that are high in fiber that are also going to give you other nutrients.”
Don’t worry about counting the fiber content of certain foods, Turner advises; instead, choose a variety of plant-based foods so you’ll get all the nutrients you need. Here, she offers easy tips to add fiber to your diet throughout the day:
Add a handful of berries and a couple of tablespoons of almonds to your cereal. “That alone could give you 10 to 12 grams of fiber,” she says. Prefer a breakfast smoothie? Blend a banana, a cup of berries, a teaspoon of flaxseed and some greens with your favorite milk for an extra 15 to 20 grams of fiber.
Add a slice of avocado instead of cheese to your sandwich for an easy 5 to 6 grams of fiber. Top it with spinach and add a side of fruit to get even more.
Swap white pasta for whole wheat, and add garbanzo beans, sunflower seeds or blueberries to your salad. “You can get to 20 to 30 grams quickly,” Turner says. “You can even get your daily dose in one meal.”
Author: Nichole Bazemore
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