While gearing up for big soccer games as a kid, my parents always made sure I had a great breakfast (thanks, mom and dad). Little did they know that their advice to “eat my Wheaties” was actually good nutrition advice as well. The “Wheaties” I’m referring to in this case are whole grains and other fiber-filled foods. Let’s take a look at what fiber is, why it matters, and ways to “eat your Wheaties” every day.
Fiber is a bit of an allusive concept. It’s not a macronutrient as it doesn’t contain calories. However, many nutrition experts count it as macronutrient-adjacent because of its importance in our bodies. Technically, it’s in the carbohydrate family, though it can’t be digested in the same manner that other carbohydrates are digested. There are two types:
- Soluble fiber: This is the stuff that dissolves in water. It benefits our bodies through lowering the bad (LDL) cholesterol, increasing the good (HDL) cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar, and giving us that “full” feeling.
- Insoluble fiber: This is the stuff that doesn’t dissolve in water. It benefits our bodies through keeping things moving, which prevents constipation and diseases in the colon.
For men, the recommendation is 30-38 grams of fiber per day, while women need to shoot for 21-25 grams. If you’re already getting that amount, then you’re in the minority. Most Americans are getting right around 12 grams per day, thanks to diets high in processed foods, refined grains, and sugar.
Because fiber is in the carbohydrate family, it’s found in fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Which brings us to a little anatomy lesson about grains. Here’s an up-close look at the seed (read: whole grain) of a plant:
If the grain still has all three of its parts, then it is considered a whole grain. However, if one or more of these parts are removed during processing, then the grain is considered refined. Basically, whole = less processed = more nutrients. Make sense? That’s why nutrition experts recommend whole grain bread, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta over their white counterparts.
But maybe you’ve already made the switch to whole grains over refined and you’re still falling short of the recommended daily fiber. Can I make some other suggestions of how to “eat your Wheaties?”
- Grains: whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa (technically a seed), oats, amaranth, barley, rye
- Beans: lima, kidney, pinto, black beans, chickpeas, lentils
- Veggies: split peas, collard greens, spinach, acorn squash, summer squash, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato with skin
- Fruits: raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, elderberries, apple with skin, dried prunes, dried figs
- Nuts/seeds: flaxseed, almonds, pinon nuts (bonus points if you’ve ever heard of these guys!), sesame seeds
Try incorporating more these fiber-filled foods into your diet and notice your digestion improve, cholesterol thrive, and hunger pangs go away. You’ll be amazed at what eating your “Wheaties” can do for your health!