Even if you regularly reach for plenty of protein and healthy fat, your diet could be falling short if you aren’t eating enough high-fiber foods. Long known for its ability to keep your digestive system happy, fiber is also one of the keys to feeling full throughout the day, which will keep you from overeating. And researchers have reason to believe fiber’s slimming abilities extend beyond just satiety.
In a video from The New York Times, Stanford professor Justin Sonnenburg explained that fiber is crucial for feeding our gut bacteria. Without enough, these bacteria become depleted, leading to obesity and other health issues. And since most Americans are falling woefully short on the recommended daily amount, according to one 2012 review, we’re all at risk for health problems down the road.
Luckily, getting more fiber into your meals is easier than you think. With these seven simple changes, you’ll be eating better than ever.
1. Have whole fruit instead of juice at breakfast
If pouring a glass of OJ is a regular part of your morning routine, it might be time to say so long to the juice. While the drink is packed with nutrients like vitamin C, it usually doesn’t contain any fiber. Even the versions packed with pulp only provide only about 1 gram per 8 ounces, according to Calorie Count. If you opt for the whole fruit, the nutrition site shows you’ll score an even higher vitamin tally and more than 3 grams of fiber. And bonus, you’ll consume just 69 calories per orange compared to juice’s 120 calories per 8-ounce portion.
2. Replace some meat with legumes
Many people are trying to cut back on meat as a way to benefit health and become friendlier to the environment. If you look to beans, lentils, and other legumes to stand in as your protein, it’s also an effective way to boost your fiber intake. CalorieKing shows a ½-cup portion of cooked pinto beans, which is about 3 ounces, provides you with almost 8 grams of both protein and fiber.The same amount of lean sirloin, though high in protein, totally loses in the fiber department.
3. Replace your usual chips or crackers with popcorn
Most crunchy snack foods are filled with starch, salt, and not much else. Pretzels will cause less of a dent in your diet than chips, but they still don’t really offer much in the way of nutrition. Instead of going for these typical eats, reach for popcorn. This airy snack is actually a whole grain that provides 3 grams of fiber and just 90 calories per 3-cup serving. Just make sure you’re sticking with air-popped varieties. You can season the snack yourself with salt, herbs, and a drizzle of olive oil.
4. Build a smarter salad
While most people reach for greens when tossing a salad, these lightweight veggies don’t actually contain that much fiber. Even kale is low on the scale when left raw. Instead of relying on lettuce, add other fiber-rich veggies to your salad. SFGate recommended tossing in some peppers, carrots, or cabbage. Cauliflower and broccoli are also great choices. Keep in mind, you don’t have to go all raw. Adding some roasted or steamed veggies to a salad is a great way to use up leftovers while making your standard side more interesting.
5. Keep the skin on your spuds
Grabbing a vegetable peeler is pretty much a no-brainer when cooking anything with potatoes, but think twice before you remove the skins. Berkley Wellness explained this exterior portion contains much more concentrated levels of iron, fiber, and potassium than the flesh. The same is true of sweet potatoes. The skin becomes very tender when steamed or boiled, so the method even works for mashed preparations.
6. Substitute whole grains for refined ones
Most of us go into automatic mode while grocery shopping, always reaching for the same staples. The next time you’re stocking up, try replacing some of your usual white starches with their whole-grain counterparts. These grains are generally less processed and contain higher levels of important nutrients. Take brown rice, for example. Livestrong explains how this grain contains more fiber than the white stuff, and it’s even lower in calories. Try making the swap with breads and pastas as well.
7. Work vegetables into your favorite dishes
Just because your favorite braised beef recipe doesn’t call for veggies doesn’t mean something bad will happen if you add them. You can significantly boost the fiber content of this dish by stirring in some peas and spinach. Food & Wine’s simple beef stew shows how it’s done. The same goes for just about any other meal. Macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, and fried rice all take really well to veggies. Even a pulled pork sandwich can get a boost by adding a scoop of slaw.
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