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Owing to its association with bathroom visits, dietary fiber isn’t the most glamorous nutrition topic to bring up on the start line. But here is my public service announcement: you should increase fiber intake. Beyond being essential for keeping food moving through your digestive system (hence, its roll in keeping you regular), fiber also plays an important part in regulating appetite, steadying blood sugar numbers, improving cholesterol levels, and boosting the microbiome–an important element of an athlete’s gut health and immunity.
A study in the May issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed eating more fiber can offer protection against some of today’s biggest killers like cancer and heart disease.
Sadly, surveys show that most Americans fall well short of consuming the recommended 25 and 38 grams of daily fiber for women and men respectively. And all those sports drinks and gels that are powering your workouts aren’t exactly fiber heavyweights. Thankfully, you don’t have to eat like a gopher or spike your morning coffee with Metamucil to get the fiber you need. Instead, it’s a better idea to sneak in a little bit of extra fiber to dishes you already eat.
Increase Fiber Intake: 10 Easy Ways
Here are 10 effortlessly ways to amp up your intake.
1. Boil up alt-pastas: For your next pasta night, why not go for one that offers up more fiber for your buck? Noodles made with chickpeas like the brand Banza instead of those produced from wheat flour contain about twice as much fiber–5 grams per 2-ounce serving. As a bonus, you get an extra wallop of plant-based protein to show your muscles some love.
2. Power up on fruit bars: You can’t go wrong snacking on fruit like apples to increase fiber, but what also works is opting for packaged bars made with real fruit instead of fruit flavoring for an extra hit. For instance, KIND Whole Fruit bars deliver up to 4 grams of fiber and contain no added sugars.
3. Don’t discount green bananas: If bananas are already a fixture of your smoothies, consider whipping in underripe ones. In contrast to a banana with yellow browning skin, the fruit with a green peel contains a few grams of resistant starch which is a special type of prebiotic fiber that serves as a food source for the beneficial bacteria in your gut so they can flourish.
4. Dive into a bowl of popcorn: We are all cozying up for more movie nights at home these days, so make sure to arm yourself with a bowl of fluffy kernels. A 3-cup serving of air-popped popcorn will deliver 4 grams of fiber making it a blockbuster snack option when binging on Netflix.
5. Sweeten up your salads: A bowl of greens is already a great way to boost fiber intake, but tossing on a handful of raspberries ups the ante. A cup of the sweet-tart fruit contains 8 grams of fiber to give any salad more staying powder. Or try whipping up a fiber-packed fruity vinaigrette by blending together raspberries, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and a couple pinches salt.
6. Add a taste of the tropics to oatmeal: Want to make a steamy bowl of oatmeal an even bigger fiber powerhouse? Then stir in a few spoonfuls of coconut flour. Made by finely grinding up dried coconut, this power flour supplies a whopping 7 grams of fiber in a mere 2-ounce serving. You can also experiment baking with this nut powder to increase fiber.
7. Grab hold of a rye sandwich: When stuffing sandwich ingredients between two slices of bread, opt for rye. A slice of hearty rye bread can have up to 6 grams of fiber, two to four times more than even whole wheat bread. Just be sure to choose brands that list rye flour or rye meal as the first ingredient.
8. Add chia seeds to your yogurt: Proving that great things come in small packages, every 2 tablespoons of chia seeds give you an impressive 6 grams of fiber. That makes them an easy way to elevate fiber numbers in everything from yogurt to oatmeal to smoothies.
9. Spill the beans into scramble eggs: Whenever you get cracking in the morning, toss in some canned pinto beans. For each ¼ cup serving you’ll start your day with 4 additional grams of fiber along with an extra dose of protein and a range of essential vitamins and minerals.
10. Flip oat bran: When mixing up pancake batter, try swapping out a quarter of the flour a recipe calls for with oat bran. Do so and you’ll be flipping flapjacks with an extra 4 grams of fiber.
One Caveat: Sometimes Less is More
There is one time where too many high-fiber foods shouldn’t be on your menu: before a training session or race where fiber’s power to delay digestion can lead to stomach woes while you are working up a sweat. Try to limit the amount of fiber in any pre-exercise meal or snack to about 5 grams.