Considering the ever expanding American waistline, it's time to face facts: With over 60% of our country overweight and walking swiftly down the path to obesity, we need help making healthy foods choices.
To lead us in the right direction, health advocates are calling on us to include more whole grains and fresh produce in our daily diet. What do these items have in common? They are rich in fiber and provide numerous health benefits due to high levels of antioxidants and phyto-nutrient compounds. For example, vitamin C from oranges will help heal cuts and wounds and keep teeth and gums healthy. That same orange also contains seven grams of fiber, about 25% of your daily recommendation.
Although dietary suggestions differ depending upon height, weight and activity level, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends 20-35 grams of fiber per day to support regularity, a healthy cardiovascular system and to maintain balanced cholesterol levels. According to the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans, high fiber foods and produce should be consumed the most often of all items in the diet, as a way to promote optimal health.
In an effort to educate and promote public awareness about the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, we are seeing more and more books and publications speaking out about the importance of fiber in the diet. For example, the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), a non-profit consumer education group has launched a nutrition education and marketing campaign called, "Fruits & Veggies – More Matters. (TM)" The USDA has disassembled and reassembled the recommended Food Pyramid to focus on high fiber foods, and nutrition experts everywhere are offering more and more literature and education on the subject. These initiatives are reaching out to all Americans encouraging healthy food choices which feature fresh produce.
The well worn path toward obesity is bringing us ever closer to a future of cardiovascular disease, constipation, fatigue and premature ageing. Keeping our diet fresh and our bodies fit is imperative, but often difficult considering our busy lives and need for convenience. Here are a few simple suggestions of how to incorporate more fiber rich fruits and vegetables into your diet:
Shake it up – add fruits to your morning smoothies, sprinkle in a fiber supplement, or drop in some nut butter for a tasty high fiber treat.
Toss a salad – using bagged lettuce and pre-chopped vegetables will speed prep time and allow for convenience.
Try a stir-fry – properly prepared, a dish like this can be low in oils and high in crisp fiber rich veggies. Serve over steamed brown rice for a bigger nutrient punch.
Add a fiber supplement – There are many products on the market, including bars, capsules, powders and shakes. These items are a simple way to incorporate additional fiber into your daily routine.