At one point, prunes were all the rage for adding roughage to a diet.
Well, prunes are still the rage, but Mature Outlook magazine reports roughage is called fiber these days. And now, foods that are rich in fiber - from prunes to oat bran to beans - have been found to have other health benefits, too.Follow these tips for a fiber-filled diet.
1. Get the facts straight. Most Americans eat about 10 grams of fiber daily. That's still less than half the amount the National Cancer Institute says should be consumed. They recommend eating foods that provide 20-30 grams of fiber daily.
There are two types of fiber - insoluble and soluble - and both are needed for good health. Insoluble fiber prevents constipation and diverticulosis.
Medical researchers believe it also protects against colon cancer. Wheat bran is the best known source of insoluble fiber, but whole grains, vegetables and fruits also contain the fiber. Soluble fiber is thought to lower blood cholesterol and the low-density lipoproteins (LDL) that carry cholesterol through the blood. It is found in dried peas and beans, oats and oat bran, rice bran and fruit.
2. Breakfast cereal: Choose a winner.
With all the new breakfast cereals to choose from, the options may appear overwhelming - until one learns how to decipher all the nutritional information found on cereal boxes. First, keep in mind the type of fiber that is desired and check for it in the ingredient lists.
If constipation, or diverticulosis, is your concern, look for a cereal that contains the insoluble fiber found in wheat bran. People trying to lower blood cholesterol levels should opt for the soluble fiber found in oat bran.
Next, check the boxes for amounts of dietary fiber. All sorts of cereals claim to be high in fiber or bran, so read the fine print in the nutritional labels to be sure. There the amounts of total dietary fiber are listed in grams per serving.
3. Eat vegetables. Cabbage and many of its cousins in the vegetable family are loaded with dietary fiber. Cooked potatoes, carrots, green beans, corn and broccoli are some of the best bets.
4. Hop on the oat branwagon. This high-soluble-fiber ingredient is turning up in cereals and breads of all kinds so there shouldn't be any trouble eating more oat bran. Buy it to eat as a breakfast cereal or to use when baking.
Soluble fiber can be obtained from other sources. Rice bran and corn bran are now touted as being just as good or better than oat bran at lowering blood cholesterol. Psyllium, a bulking agent used as a laxative, is another soluble fiber finding its way into cereals.
5. Focus on fruit. The less processed the fruit, the more fiber it is likely to have. Eat fruit unpeeled whenever possible.
6. Eat whole grains. Brown rice, barley and bulgur wheat are good sources of fiber.
7. Substitute. In homemade baked goods substitute whole wheat flour for up to half of the all-purpose flour called for in a recipe.
8. Get a boost from beans. Beans are a gold mine of fiber. A 1/2-cup serving of beans contains four grams of soluble fiber.
9. Don't forget dried fruits. Four prunes contain three grams of dietary fiber, five dates contain four grams.
10. Bread: Read the label. Many bread companies do not list the amount of fiber in their breads; the best choice is 100-percent whole wheat bread made solely from whole wheat flour. Wheat flour, the first ingredient found on most labels, is actually white flour. Brown color isn't a guarantee of whole grain since it often comes from caramel coloring.