FRUITS, VEGETABLES AND FIBER

Peg Fitkowski, RD, CDN*

It’s the middle of another beautiful summer in WNY and also the peak season for many fruits and vegetables at dozens of farmers’ markets across the region.

That makes it the perfect time to talk about one of the lesser known benefits of fruits and vegetables – fiber.  In addition to being good sources of a variety of vitamins, low in calories, and (generally) low in carbohydrates and fat, many fruits and vegetables are a great source of fiber.

Fiber, the element in plants that we do not digest, passes through the digestive tract, providing a number of health benefits.  It can help prevent irregularity and constipation.  It can help push carcinogens and other harmful elements out of our systems, with many doctors agreeing that it can cut down on the risk of colon cancer.  And, because fiber is bulky it can help you stay full longer, which can help you avoid overeating.

Eating enough fiber on a regular basis can also play a role in broader health issues – such as reducing the chances of heart disease, lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, maintaining stable blood sugar and even losing weight.

On average, people should be eating 20 to 35 grams a fiber per day, with men and those under the age of 50 aiming for the high end of the range.

Fruits and vegetables that are considered “good sources” (2.5 grams) or “high in fiber” (5 grams) include: apples, blackberries, raspberries, spinach, pears, blueberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green beans, onions, oranges, sweet potatoes, peas, cauliflower and others.

For most people, depending on their personal health conditions, it can be beneficial to get a greater proportion of fiber from fruits and vegetables than from whole grains because of the differences in calories and carbohydrates.

With so many benefits to fiber, and so many delicious fruits and vegetables available, it sounds like a perfect time to take a walk down to your local farmers’ market with your family or friends.

 

* Peg Fitkowski, RD, CDN, is the Director of Nutrition Services for Meals on Wheels for WNY.  Homebound seniors may be a fit for Meals on Wheels delivery; 716-822-2002.