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Include high-fiber foods in diet

March 18, 2009|BY LYNN LITTLE

With our grocery dollar shrinking, more of us are motivated to be sure we're getting the most nutrition for our money. One important nutritional guideline to remember is to include adequate fiber in your diet to help lower the risk of certain chronic diseases.

Nutrition experts recommend that women younger than 50 should aim for 25 grams of dietary fiber daily; men younger than 50 should aim for 38 grams. As we age the amount of fiber needed decreases because our calorie needs decrease. For children, the recommendation is the child's age plus 5 grams.

What does fiber do?

All fiber is not the same. Soluble fiber, found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, is broken down during digestion. These gummy soluble fibers are linked to lowering cholesterol.

Insoluble fiber, which is not broken down in the digestive tract, is also in fruits and vegetables and in whole grains. It can help prevent constipation. Some studies have shown insoluble fiber might decrease heart attacks by reducing inflammation, blood pressure and the risk of blood clots.

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Load up your grocery cart with fruit, veggies and whole grains. Whole grain breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables are all high in soluble and insoluble fiber.

Not all whole-grain products are equally healthful. When selecting whole-grain foods, check the ingredient list to be sure a whole grain is listed as the first ingredient. In addition to lowering the risk of diabetes and heart disease, these high-fiber foods also contribute to a feeling of fullness, which might help with weight loss and weight maintenance.

Add whole grains to meals

To eat more whole grains, substitute a whole-grain product for a more refined product. Consider replacing half of your refined grain foods such as white bread and rolls with whole-grain foods.

Here are some ideas to integrate more whole grain into your daily diet:

  • Try brown rice or whole-wheat pasta.

  • Use whole grains in mixed dishes, such as barley in vegetable soups and stews or bulgur wheat in casseroles and stir-fries.

  • Experiment by substituting whole wheat or oat flour for as much as half the flour in pancake, waffle and muffin recipes.

  • Use whole-grain bread or cracker crumbs in meatloaf.

  • Popcorn is a whole grain. But steer clear of buttery, highly salted, microwavable or movie theater popcorn when choosing this quick-to-fix snack.

  • Snack on ready-to-eat, whole-grain cereals.

  • Try a whole-grain snack chip such as baked tortilla chips.

  • Another whole grain to look for is slightly crunchy quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), a great addition to the diet of those who are wheat sensitive. As an added bonus, it's high in protein and cooks quickly. Rinse the grain first to remove the bitter coating.

    Experiment in the kitchen and before you know it, healthful whole grains will become a dietary staple.

    Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County.

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