Despite of the growing awareness fiber consumption plays in healthy aging and preventing chronic illness, most Americans don’t eat enough fiber. Adults need about 25 – 38 grams of fiber a day, depending upon age, gender and overall health status. Unfortunately, average consumption is closer to 16 grams/day.
So many foods provide our bodies with the fiber! Plant-based foods–vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and fruit are excellent sources of fiber. Canned and dried beans, minimally processed grains, sweet potatoes and the flavor-filled onion can also contribute to our daily fiber intake. One cup of onion has 3 grams of fiber (12 percent of the USDA daily recommended value). So, onions add to your overall fiber consumption – and better yet, add flavor to other high fiber foods. A few examples include kale and sautéed onions, caramelized onions and brussel sprouts, and Greek and bean salads with onions. Check out this tasty new Lentil Salad.
So we know fiber is good for us, but do we know why? The body doesn’t have the enzymes to break fiber down so it moves through the body intact. Depending upon the type of fiber, it either works like gel, absorbing “bad cholesterol” and carries it out of our bodies (soluble), or works like a big scrub brush inside the intestines (insoluble). In addition to keeping people regular, studies indicate that dietary fiber improves immune health and reduces the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. The American Heart Association (AHA), American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) all recommend a high fiber diet for health and wellness and to prevent and/or manage chronic disease.
Another advantage of eating fiber is it increases “satiety”–a fancy word that means feeling full. Since it takes longer to chew high fiber food, and longer to digest them, you are more likely not to overeat. A high fiber diet plays an important role in weigh loss and/or weight management, and maintaining a healthy weight is linked to lower rates of all kinds of chronic diseases.
For the March Nutrition Nugget we’ll dig into the synergy of healthy oil and onions.