Why is fiber good for your health? Fiber, a nutritional component that helps us to stay active and be on the move, is linked to digestive health and bowel functions. It is advised to have a diet rich in dietary fiber in order to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, lose weight, enhance the skin’s health, ease out bowel movements, flushing carcinogens out of our body and also keeping cholesterol levels in place.
Some of us also refer to fiber as the roughage which are essentially part of plant based foods like grains, nuts, beans, fruits and vegetables which basically pass through the body in an undigested form since the body cannot break them down, keeping the digestive system clean & healthy.
What are the major types of dietary fiber?
There are 2 basic types of Fiber which we should be aware of:
1. Soluble Fiber: This type of fiber dissolves well in water and helps to control our blood sugar levels. Some common examples of soluble fiber containing foods include oatmeal, beans, nuts, barley, pears, citrus fruits and apples.
2. Insoluble Fiber: This type of fiber does not really dissolve in water. Insoluble fiber helps to prevent constipation. Some insoluble fiber containing foods are whole grains, wheat cereals, a few vegetables like tomatoes and carrots.
While some foods contain combination of both, it is recommended to go for the foods which are unprocessed and can be consumed fresh. The more natural the food, the better the fiber!
How to include Fiber in our daily diet?
1. The ideal intake of fibre is around 20 to 35 gms per day per individual, keeping in consideration factors like age, gender, lifestyle and activity levels. However, studies have shown that most people do not consume even half of what is needed. Fiber absorbs a lot of water and so, we need to increase our fluid intake as well and gear up on the water levels.
2. ‘Fiber to a Good Day’s Start’ should be your healthy morning mantra and there are some easy ways to adhere to it. Adding whole grain cereals to your cornflakes bowl can boost your fiber intake. Also, try adding a few spoons of unprocessed whole wheat bran cereal to your breakfast bowl (this can be combined with yoghurt as well). Berries also have high fiber content – Hands on your berry jar for some blueberries, blackberries, cranberries etc!
3. Replace to Revive: For instance, we can switch from white rice to brown rice few times a week; once taste suits your preferences, you can opt to completely shift to brown rice. Also choose whole grain bread for your toasts and sandwiches as they are just amazing.
4. Bite into fresh and dry fruits, whole grain crackers and low sugar biscuits etc instead of all those fried chips and snacks that hit your palate during your busy work from home schedule and your binge eating sprees.
5. Eating whole and full is the moral of the story too. Since most of us have a habit of peeling off potatoes, carrots, apples and pears, the real fiber and nutrients get washed away. To get the complete health benefits of fiber, have those vegetables unpeeled, but thoroughly cleaned and rinsed. Include more vegetables like broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, Babycorn, red capsicums, french beans etc. in your daily diet.
6. Include seed varieties like flax seeds in your diet owing to their rich nutritional content. Try adding them in its powdered form into your breads and rotis; add them lightly toasted to your salads, dressings, toppings for your open sandwiches, into your baked dishes and also into stuffings and fillings. Various seeds like chia, muskmelon, pumpkin, white and black sesame seeds, sunflower seeds can also be incorporated.
7. Don’t neglect the legumes since they are high in fiber content and we have a good array of them available to add them into our day to day cooking. Some of the most common ones are the kidney beans or rajma, the black eyed peas or chauli, the chickpeas or kabuli chana and so on. It is easy to have them in the forms of dips, side dishes, main course dishes, baked dishes, stews etc.
8. Have lots of fruits but avoid fruit juices; consuming your fruit in the whole form can give you a good deal of fiber, as opposed to gulping it down as a juice.
Some Common yet Rich Sources of Fiber:
1. PEARS- A great fruit source of fiber, having a pear with the skin on is a good idea. Add it to a live bowl of salad tossing with few veggies, a dash of Vitamin C and a few nuts and greens.
2. STRAWBERRIES: As delicious as it can get, these can be eaten fresh. Interestingly, they’re among the most nutrient-dense fruits you can eat, boasting of high doses of vitamin C, manganese, and various powerful antioxidants. Try out some banana strawberry smoothie.
3. AVOCADOS: The avocado is a delicious and unique fruit. Instead of being high in carbs, it’s loaded with healthy fats. Avocados are very high in Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin E, and various B vitamins. They also have numerous other health benefits.
4. BANANAS: Not only are bananas good sources of fiber, but they are also loaded with Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 & potassium. Bananas are great to be had just like that or blend them into smoothies and health shakes with fruits, nuts etc. You can also add them to a breakfast sandwich with some tinges of protein-packed peanut butter.
5. CARROTS: The real appeal of carrot lies not in its rich colour or taste, but the high nutritional value it adds to your diet. You can have it in the form of a steaming hot soup or as a great puree. They add great flavour to your salads too. If too hungry, munch it just as it is.
6. BEETROOTS: Another beneficial and interesting ingredient which can be incorporated in a number of ways in our daily cooking (in numerous forms like juices, salads, and what not!), these are loaded with fiber, manganese, folate and several other essential nutrients.
7. BROCCOLI: The fresh green look, the vibrancy, the crunch and the unique character of broccoli is just incomparable to any other exotic veggie. Adding it blanched, steamed, stir fried, sautéed just keeps it going right.
8. KIDNEY BEANS: A savour in many ways, kidney beans are rich in nutrients. Have them in boiled form or add them into your salads.
Here are a few Fiber Rich simple yet power-packed recipes:
1.BARLEY – BEAN AND CHICKEN SOUP
oil- 2 tsp
bay leaf- 2 no
peppercorns- 4-5 no
garlic-1 tsp chopped
onion-1 small, chopped
celery- ¼ cup cut into small pieces
carrots- ½ cup cubes
boneless chicken-1 cup diced and/ shelled prawns- 250 gms
salt and pepper to taste
veg/chicken/fish stock/ water- as needed- 5-6 cups
potato-1-2 small, peeled and cubed
barley- 1 cup
parsley/coriander- 2 tbsp. chopped
sweet corn/ zucchini/ mushrooms etc- 1 cup, assorted can also be used.
Boiled chickpeas/ baked beans/ boiled chauli beans-1/2 cup
Mixed herbs- ½ tsp
Chili flakes- ½ tsp
Turmeric powder- ¼ tsp
Tomato puree-1/4 cup
Sliced almonds- 2-3 tsp
Raisins- 2-3 tsp
1. Prepare all the ingredients for the barley and chicken or prawn soup recipe.
2. Olive oil is a good option as well to use in place of regular oil, sometimes I also prefer to use regular oil + white sesame oil as well for a different flavor in this soup recipe.
3. Heat oil add in the whole spices, add in onion and garlic and saute for a minute. Add in the barley and veggies and saute them for 30 seconds, add in chicken or prawns, turmeric and seasonings, herbs, chili flakes, tomato puree.
4. Now add in the stock/water and bring the contents to a boil, simmer down the soup, add in the beans, cover and cook for 12-16 mins and check for salt and adjust as needed.
5. Allow the veggies and barley to cook up-to the bite and not over cooked and mashy, add fresh parsley/coriander and simmer the soup for another 2 mins and serve hot garnished with nuts/fresh herbs. A nice wholesome soup can be enjoyed with some hot toasts for a mini meal.
2. NON-VEG FRIED RICE BOWL
Brown rice/ white rice- 2 cups boiled
Chicken- boiled, sliced- ½ cup
Shrimps- 1 cup, cleaned and poached
Chicken salami/ sausages-1/2 cup sliced/diced as an option
Boiled kidney beans/ chauli beans/ baked beans-1/2 cup can also be added
Eggs- 2 no
Lemon grass- 2-3 stalks – cut
Garlic- 1 tsp sliced
Onion- 1 small chopped
Spring onions- ½ cup chopped
Cabbage- ½ cup chopped
Carrots- ¼ cup chopped
American corn-1/4 cup boiled
Salt and pepper to taste
Soya sauce-1-2 tsp
Red chili sauce-1-2 tsp
Assorted sliced nuts- 2-3 tbsp.
Pumpkin seeds/ flax seeds- 1-2 tsp
1. Pre-prep all the ingredients for the health total non-veg based fried rice. However, we can also make it veg as well.
2. Boil the rice, drain and allow to cool completely for around 1 hour. Now heat oil in a wok/ pan add in the lemon grass, garlic, onions, and saute.
3. Add in the veggies/ non-veg ingredients one by one and quickly stir fry them. Add in the eggs as well and scramble them. Add the beans at this stage if being used, add seasonings to taste, soya sauce, chili sauce and give it a nice mix.
4. Finally add in the rice and greens and toss them all up, cook on a medium flame for 2-3 mins, turn off the flame, add the toasted seeds towards the end and serve hot with gravy/choice of soup/ stir fry as well for a meal to go with.
3.FIBER SALAD BOWL
For the base of the salad:
Assorted lettuce leaves-iceberg/ Lollorosso/ cos/ chicory etc- 2 cups, cleaned and refreshed with ice cold water.
For the body of the salad:
Brown rice- 1 cup boiled/cooked
Boiled sweet potato- ½ cup cubes
Beans Sprouts/moong sprouts – ½ cup slightly steamed
Apple with skin- 1 small cubes
Beetroot- 1 small boiled cut into cubes
Cucumber-1 small cubes
For the dressing of the salad:
Date puree- 2 tbsp.
Fresh orange segments/juice- ¼ cup
Lime juice- 2 tbsp.
Honey- 1 tsp
Mint leaves- 8-10
Chia/ flax seeds/ melon seeds- 2 tsp
Ginger juice- 2 tsp
For the garnish of the salad:
Micro greens- 2 tbsp.
Fresh basil/ parsley/coriander – 2 tbsp.
Fresh Pomegranate seeds/ Olives/cherry tomatoes/ gherkins- as desired.
1.Prepare all the ingredients for the salad bowl.
2. Keep all ingredients chilled until being used.
3. In a mixing bowl combine together ingredients for dressing and stir is well, add a little olive oil if desired or some vinegar.
4. Arrange the base and body in a nice presentable serving dish or bowl clearly placing out all colors in the salad.
5. Just before serving drizzle the dressing over the salad and lightly toss it and garnish as desired.