By: Jamie Balesteri
As children, many of us experienced those nights at dinner when we weren’t allowed to leave the table until we finished our broccoli; or worse, we were threatened by the promise of “no dessert” until all of our peas were gone. Why on earth would the adult figures in our lives subject us (in our minds) to such cruel acts of coercion and deprivation? Well, they understood the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption that we as children were not capable of comprehending just yet, and they just wanted the best for us and our health. Simply put, they showed tough love because they cared about us with every “fiber” of their being.
On that note, here are some reminders about one of the oft-overlooked nutritional contributions of fruits and vegetables to our daily diets: Fiber.
What is dietary fiber and where does it come from?
Fiber is stuff found in the cell walls of plant foods that ‘resists’ breakdown in our digestive tract. It’s found in a wide array of fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains, and it can also be consumed in the form of a supplement. It can do a lot to improve our health, but sometimes people don’t really know how to make sure to get enough in their diet. Read on to learn how to do just that.
What are the health benefits of high fiber consumption?
A diet high in fiber has loads of health benefits. For example, it improves…ahem…regularity. It can also help us feel fuller longer, and that is really useful for weight management. But the major benefits have to do with the most important chronic diseases from which Americans suffer: heart disease and diabetes. As it turns out, fiber can actually decrease blood cholesterol levels, which is important for heart health, and it can help normalize blood sugar levels, which is a major issue in decreasing risk for diabetes or helping to manage it for people with diabetes (1).
How much fiber should we eat?
Unfortunately, American don’t eat enough fiber. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the daily recommendation for fiber intake is on average 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men (and frankly, the more the better!). But, the current daily fiber intake in the United States only reaches about half of the recommended amount, since the average person only consumes about 15 grams per day (2).
Luckily, you Chow Share members out there are already doing good for your body through your Chow Share. Since your share is filled with fruits and vegetables, it’s also filled with healthy fiber!
Tips and tricks to get more fiber in your diet from produce:
- Be creative and add variety.
Many vegetables can be given new life by using them in unique ways, which can also prevent the monotony of eating the same produce prepared the same way every day. Add chopped or shredded veggies to sautés, frittatas, sauces, smoothies, muffins, and other baked goods. These are also great methods for using up excess produce before it spoils.
- Don’t throw away the pulp or the peels!
Peels from fruits and vegetables contain the highest concentration of fiber, so opt out of removing the peels as long as they are edible! If you are a fan of juicing, the pulp that gets left behind contains nearly all of the fiber from the fruits and vegetables being juiced. Instead of throwing it out, use it the same way as mentioned above for chopped and shredded vegetables. It can even be frozen in ice cube trays for convenient use later on!
- Eat a large salad every day.
Leafy greens contain a lot of fiber and very few calories because of the large surface area of their leaves. Also, don’t underestimate the green tops that are often discarded from root vegetables. Beet, radish, and turnip greens can be chopped and added to salads or even sautéed.
- One final note:
Fiber supplements can add to one’s daily intake, but they do not contain the other valuable nutrients present in whole fruits and vegetables, which arguably offer more “bang” for your bite.
One of the best ways to eat lots of fiber is to give in to that voice from your childhood telling you to “eat your vegetables.” Thankfully, your Chow Share makes doing so fun! So grab that share and dig in!
- Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/fiber/ART-20043983. Published November 17, 2012. Accessed February 12, 2014.
- Slavin JL. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Health Implications of Dietary Fiber. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008;108:1716-1731.