• Alison Acerra MS, RDN

Fiber: The What? Why Now? Where? And How?

The recommendation to eat more fiber sure isn't something you haven't already heard! But why is now a better time than ever to heed this age old advice?

The Coronavirus is shining a light on just how important good nutrition really is to support a strong, resilient immune system - one that can play good defense against foreign pathogens, like Covid-19. We are also learning that those with chronic (mostly diet-related) conditions like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure suffer far worse with severe complications from the virus. Those who do get sick have higher hospitalization rates and mortality rates from Covid-19.

So why fiber-rich foods now?

1. Fiber-rich foods only come in plants and plants have lots of nutrients that can boost our immune systems.

2. Craving control – fiber is satiating and offers lasting feelings of fullness making it easier to control cravings and prevent overeating.

3. Keep blood sugars stable: Eating patterns that prioritize fiber-rich foods instead of sugar and processed carbohydrates can cut risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes in half.

4. Keep a healthy heart: In a study of over 40,000 male health professionals, high total dietary fiber intake was linked to a 40 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease.

5. The Good Gut for Immunity - A healthy gut microbiome can support a resilient immune system. Probiotics are “good” bacteria that populate a healthy gut and prebiotics (found in all fiber-rich foods) feed these “good gut” bacteria.

What foods have fiber?

Fiber is found only in plants (more meat and dairy isn’t the answer here!).

How can you get more fiber?

1. Add beans, whole grains and/or nuts and seeds to any lettuce-leaf salad.

2. Swap processed grains for ‘whole’ ones. Build a better smoothie – skip the sugar and add 2-3 types of frozen veggies (kale, spinach, carrots and cauli), a serving of fruit (berries, ½ lg banana) and 2-4 Tbs rolled oats.

3. Throw some nuts, seeds and fruit into your morning cup of oats.

4. Make sure your grains are “whole” - switch out white everything (i.e. white rice, pasta and bread) for foods whose first ingredient on the label includes the word “whole.”

5. Reduce the meat on your plate by 1-2 oz and replace with slightly larger portions of plant-based foods.

Alison Acerra is a nutrition expert and Founder of Strategic Nutrition Design, a nutrition expert and Founder of Strategic Nutrition Design, a consulting agency helping employers build innovative food programs that sustain healthy, happy and productive employees.

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