I mean, at what point do we call it quits on oatmeal?
Don't get me wrong, oatmeal is great. High in magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, thiamin, I could go on. What it's not really that high in, surprisingly, is fiber. A 1/2 cup of dry oats contains 8 grams of fiber. A 1/2 cup of dry oats also contains 13 grams of protein. How come oats are known as a "fiber powerhouse" instead of a "protein powerhouse"? I'm sure it's because in relation to other protein sources, it's low, but in relation to other fiber sources, it's high...
But then you take a look at flax seeds, which have 23 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup; or chia seeds, which have about 20 grams per 1/2 cup. Or how about black beans? 15 grams per 1/2 cup, but I bet we can all attest to the fiber in those bad boys.
Over 90% of Americans don't meet the recommended daily intake of fiber. This can be for a number of reasons, from not eating a well-rounded diet to the food processing mechanisms today that strip fiber and nutrients from the food on our shelves. Knowing this, we can and should make an avid effort to eat more whole ingredients that are rich in nutrients, including fiber.
What's the hype with fiber, anyway?
I'm glad you asked! Fiber slows the movement of food through our digestive tract and decreases the number of calories that are actually absorbed from ingested food, making us feel full longer and promoting weight loss as an added bonus. Fiber also stabilizes blood sugar levels, improves gut health and lowers cholesterol.
There are two categories of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance. Sources of soluble fiber are chia seeds, black beans, lentils, nuts, oats, apples, bananas, berries, barley, VEGGIES, psyllium. Insoluble fiber increases the movement of material through the digestive tract by adding density to stool to help it move through the colon. Sources of insoluble fiber are dark leafy vegetables, seeds, green beans, celery, carrots, and fruit skins. Regardless of the type of fiber, your body needs at least 1 liter of water a day to not only help fiber do it's job, but to also help your cells function properly and keep your organs happy. So don't forget to drink up!
Plant-based fiber is generally my go-to, with the occasional exception of chia and flax seeds in my morning meal, because it is one of the highest nutrient dense sources of fiber. Plant-based fiber, to me, means apples, collard greens, avocado, cabbage, green peas, almonds, broccoli, cauliflower... all the goodies, as much as possible. Alternative forms of "plant" fiber, like bran and grains (and some legumes), can contain anti-nutrients that prevent you from absorbing certain vitamins and minerals. So when in doubt, plant it out (...?... let it slide.)
The recommended daily intake of fiber is 30-38 grams for men and 21-25 grams for women. Common signs of inadequate fiber intake are constipation, inability to feel full, high cholesterol, fatigue, IBS...
But don't fret, adding fiber to your life is an easy fix:
1. Add chia and/or flax seeds to your morning breakfast, whatever it is.
It's pretty hard to find something that chia and flax seeds don't mix with. You can mix them in your eggs, your pancake mix, your smoothie, coconut yogurt, oatmeal, whatever. They're also high in omega-3 fatty acids, an anti-inflammatory fat that promote brain health, heart health, eye health, memory and ease joint pain, If you found a miraculous breakfast item that doesn't work with chia or flax seeds, please let me know. I love to be busted!
2. Make homemade white bean hummus.
White beans are high in fiber and low in calories. Check out my lemon dill white bean hummus here, it stores in your fridge for a week and makes a great topper to salads, fish, and sliced veggies!
3. Indulge in the extra guac.
Yes, yes, guac is extra, we get it. But it's also extra nutrients— like fiber! When you're debating on getting guac at your next Chipotle outing or Whole Foods salad bar excursion, get the guac. Your brain, heart and gut will thank you.
4. "More veggies," -mom
Maybe our parents were actually on to something here? Like I mentioned above, veggies are the best way to get in fiber throughout the day. You can add leafy green vegetables to a morning smoothie, add some cabbage to your lunch wrap or brussels sprouts to the side of your dinner plate, and pack on over 20 grams of fiber. I'm not saying eat the vegetables you hate, I'm saying eat more of the vegetables you like. If you don't like vegetables at all, make a vow to try a new veggie every week until you find one. Here are some high fiber ideas to start: artichoke, acorn squash, collard, kale, purple cabbage, beetroot, brussels sprouts.
5. Ditch your desk popcorn.
One of my fondest memories of studying in school and working a 9-5pm was the desk popcorn. Stressed? Eat some popcorn. Chit chat with your work buddy? Have a popcorn break. Popcorn is delicious and all, but it's hard for the digestive system to, well, digest. Instead, go with a high fiber snack like an apple (boring? wait for the next option!), celery with almond butter (okay, okay, getting warmer), or dehydrated beet chips with white bean hummus! (I'm wild, I know)
If anything, adding more fiber to your diet can be a fun experiment and might encourage you to try some new food combos or let alone new food groups. Shop some of my favorite high fiber snacks on Amazon below!