I always thought I had a “perfect diet”. We eat a lot of protein, mainly “good” carbs and lots of vegetables. I would say our diet is pretty clean 80% of the time. Both my husband and I lift weights and are very active so naturally I tend to make a lot of protein based meals. We also make sure when we do eat fat, it is the “good” fat (avocados, nuts, nut butters, fish oils etc.). As far as carbohydrates (starches), we try and eat mainly brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and sweet potatoes.
I took Intro to Nutrition class last summer and one of our first assignments was to do dietary analysis. I downloaded the Lose It app and tracked everything I ate for a week. My, so I thought, “perfect diet” was not so perfect after all. While high fat and protein diet works well for me, the problem I discovered was that because my carbohydrates were on the low side, my fiber intake was very low. Generally speaking, women fiber consumption should average out at around 28 grams per day and men around 35 grams.
I never really thought about fiber much, I figured I eat vegetables and oatmeal and I never had issues with digestion so I just assumed my intake of fiber was on point. But after I tracked my diet for a week I realized that my intake of fiber was only around 16 grams per day, which is 35% less then what's recommended. The low fiber in my diet is in the direct relationship with high protein intake (also high fat intake). Usually foods that are high in protein (meats, cheese, eggs and nuts) are also high in fat and have little or no fiber.
So why is fiber important? Having enough fiber in your diet can lower the risks of many common diseases such as heart disease and diabetes; it is also found to be helpful in lowering cholesterol and controlling blood sugar levels. Fiber can also improve digestive health (promotes regularity) and help maintain healthy weight. Fiber rich foods are more filling and satisfying than low fiber foods so quantity wise you can eat more but consume less calories. Foods that are very low in fiber or contain no fiber (unless they are rich in protein or fat) will just run thru your system (e.g bread, pasta, etc) leaving you hungry after 1 hour; fibrous foods are digested slower and that is what actually keeps us full.
So what are some of the foods that you could add to your diet to increase your fiber consumption?
- Oatmeal (4 grams per cup)
- Whole wheat bread and pasta (a lot of them have 2-3 grams of fiber per serving)
- Higher fiber fruits - Raspberries (8 grams per cup), Avocado (1/2 has around 7 grams), Pear (4 grams), mango (4 grams)
- Vegetables –Lima beans (1/2 cup 6.6 grams), green peas (1/2 cup 4.4 grams), Brussel sprouts and broccoli (1/2 cup 2.8 grams), cauliflower (1/2 cup 2.5 grams)
- Beans & Lentils & Peas – pinto (1/2 cup has 10 grams), split peas (1/2 cup 8 grams), black beans (1/2 cup 8 grams), lentils (1/2 cup 8 grams)
- Nuts - Almonds (1/4 cup 4.5 grams), peanuts (1/4 cup 3.3 grams)
Over the past few months I did my best to increase the consumption of the foods above and fix my fiber intake. Here are few of my changes/ additions:
At breakfast I would eat oatmeal topped with almonds, fresh raspberries and some chia seeds or eggs with avocado on Ezekiel bread or GG crackers (great source of fiber as well!). So right at breakfast time I load up on at least 10 + grams. Then for snacks, I eat nuts and high fiber fruits ( apples and raspberries are my favorite!). I also added Health Warrior Chia Bars because they contain 4 grams of fiber per 100 calories. Really great! At dinner time I always ensure we have couple different kinds of vegetables and at least one is high in fiber ( broccoli, cauliflower and Brussel sprouts are our typical staples). Also, any time I make a salad I sprinkle some chia, hemp and pumpkin seeds on top. These superfoods don't change the taste of the salad but nutritionally they bring so much to it!
Doing dietary analysis was a really fun project and it really taught me a lot. Bringing more vegetables into my diet, beans, lentils and oats has been nothing but great!
Perhaps some of you will try and analyze your diets :) Give it a shot, you never know what you might discover! We are not perfect but we do what we can and it is never too late to change a thing here and there for better health.
Until Next Time, SP