Carbohydrate Series: Fiber

The buzz in the media around carbohydrates is very loud these days.  This has prompted me to tackle the topic. However, carbohydrates are complex (no pun intended), so I will break it down into a few posts.  This week we will discuss fiber.

 Carbohydrates are in everything, except meats, eggs and some cheeses. The most common forms of carbohydrates are sugars, starches and fiber.  Fiber is a very beneficial part of the diet.  It not only helps you stay regular, it promotes health and reduces the risk for some chronic diseases.  Fiber helps prevent constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis.  It decreases the risk of heart disease  and diabetes by lowering cholesterol and  helping to regulate blood sugar.  Fiber is found in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes (beans).

Fiber is not digested in the body, therefore it does not contribute to calories.  Since it is not absorbed into the bloodstream, it passes through the digestive system.  There are two main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.  Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel as it passes through.    Insoluble fiber does not absorb water, passing through the body largely intact.  Most foods high in fiber have both types of fiber in them. Since it is important to have both types of fiber in the diet to reap the health benefits, don’t worry about choosing a specific type of fiber.

Sadly, most Americans don’t even come close the recommended amount of 20-30g of fiber each day.  The common refined and processed foods Americans eat, such as white bread, are not only low in nutrients, they are usually low in fiber too.  The best way to get your fiber requirement is through whole foods.  Eat whole fruits and vegetables, not just drink the juice.  The skin and pulp is where you will find the fiber. When reading food labels, look for foods with at least  5g of fiber per serving.  If you have at least 6 servings of fruits and vegetables and 3 servings of whole grains per day, you are likely to meet your fiber goal.

Best sources of fiber:

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Oat bran
  • Nuts
  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
 If you find it difficult to get enough fiber each day, you can take a fiber supplement.  Add fiber, especially supplements, in slowly.  Otherwise, it can cause gas, bloating and even make constipation worse if added too quickly.  Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water each day.
 
Try this recipe packed with fiber, protein and deliciousness!
 
Avocado Pesto Pasta with White Beans and Spinach
Serves: 2
 
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup whole wheat spaghetti
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mash together the avocado and garlic using a fork or potato masher.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Heat up olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add spinach.  Cook until wilted, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and add avocado mixture, white beans and spaghetti and toss together.  Cook until warm through.  Remove from heat and add cheese.  Serve immediately. 

Nutrition Information:

479 Calories      23 g Protein

57g Carbohydrates     17g Fiber

 Enjoy!

Next post in this series we will discuss starches. 

This entry was posted in Nutrition, Recipes, Weight Loss.