About Fiber and Whole Grains
There are two types of fiber found in foods: soluble and insoluble. It's important to include foods containing both types of fiber in your daily eating plan.
Soluble fiber dissolves or swells when it's put into water. Soluble fiber helps keep blood sugar levels stable by slowing down the rate of glucose absorption into the blood stream. When consumed in adequate amounts, soluble fiber can help lower blood cholesterol levels as well. Beans, fruit, barley, and oats are especially good sources of soluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It is not readily broken down by bacteria in the intestinal tract, so it passes through the body. Insoluble fiber is essential for preventing constipation and diverticulosis by helping to maintain regularity. Vegetables, whole grain foods, and fruit are all good sources of insoluble fiber.
Getting More Fiber Every Day
Although all types of grains are sources of complex carbohydrates, those that have not been refined are better for you. Whole grains generally have more fiber and minerals. Because whole grains have not had the bran layer and germ removed during the milling process, fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals, are preserved.
Refined grains such as white flour or white rice have the bran and germ removed — this makes the refined grain much lower in fiber. Vitamins and minerals are also removed during this process, so they must be added back into the product after processing. Adding back nutrients to a processed food is called enrichment.
When you see predominant ingredients such as enriched flour in a food, odds are it has been refined and is not very high in fiber. Eating refined grains instead of whole grains makes it difficult to achieve adequate amounts of fiber each day. Whenever you can, choose whole grains over refined grains. The recommendation for daily fiber intake is 25–30 grams per day, which is about twice the amount found in the typical American diet.
Terms like “multigrain,” “seven grain,” or “stone ground” do not necessarily mean a product is whole grain. If a whole-grain ingredient is not listed as the first ingredient, the item may contain only a small portion of whole grains. One way to find a whole-grain product is to look for the Whole Grains Council stamp of approval, which has two different logos used to label foods containing whole grains. The logo with “100 percent Whole Grain” on it indicates the food has only whole grains and at least 16 grams per serving.
Great Ways to Get More Whole Grains
The best way to get more whole grains in your meals is to substitute whole-grain foods for refined products.
When a recipe calls for white flour (all-purpose), experiment by replacing some of the flour with a whole-grain variety.
Every week try one new grain. Quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, or kasha may be unfamiliar to you, but are as easy to prepare as white rice.
Use whole grains as a side dish or mixed with vegetables, lentils, or beans.
Add whole grains to soups, salads, or casseroles instead of white rice or pasta.
Try a cooked whole grain as a hot breakfast cereal.
If you are not used to bran or other high-fiber cereals, try mixing them with equal amounts of your regular cereal.
Switch to whole-grain crackers instead of saltines or snack-type crackers.
Use oatmeal in place of bread crumbs in items such as meatloaf or meatballs.
Gradually start replacing the refined grains in you kitchen cabinets with whole-grain foods.