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Here are ten questions to help you evaluate the level of dietary fiber you currently consume and help you focus on areas you need to improve.
1. Do you eat whole fruits or only drink fruit juice?
- Give yourself 2 points if you eat whole fruit at least five times a week. Whole fruit contains valuable dietary fiber while juices are fiberless. When you pick out fruit, choose organic. It contains lower levels of pesticide residues and is not waxed. (Some experts believe that the wax on supermarket fruit may raise their residual pesticide level.) Always wash fruit and all vegetarian foods thoroughly before cooking or eating.
2. Do you take fiber supplements made exclusively from psyllium? Or a more balanced supplement made from flax and/or other sources?
- You get no points for only taking psyllium, which is too full of soluble fiber and lacks the insoluble variety. That can cause too much bulk in the intestinal tract, dehydrate you and make you constipated. A more balanced supplement with flax contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber soaks up water and toxins while insoluble fiber creates more bulk in your stool and whisks off debris clinging to intestinal walls. Give yourself 2 points for a flax supplement.
3. How many helpings of leafy green vegetables do you eat on a typical day?
- You get 2 points for each helping. Dark leafy green vegetables are sources of fiber, B vitamins and calcium.
4. Do you eat whole wheat bread or white bread?
- Give yourself 1 point for whole grain bread. But don’t be fooled by some dark supermarket breads: If the first ingredient listed on a bread wrapper isn’t whole wheat or another whole grain, it doesn’t have that much fiber.
5. Do you eat oatmeal or a whole grain cereal at breakfast?
- Take 2 more points for a high fiber breakfast. Research shows that eating a healthy breakfast lowers your risk for heart disease and diabetes. Breakfast eaters also keep their weight down more successfully than breakfast skippers.
6. How many bowel movements do you have daily?
- Give yourself 1 point for each one, up to 3. Many health experts believe you should have at least 2 movements daily
7. Do you strain during bowel movements?
- If you have to strain, subtract 2 points. While a lack of fiber may not be the only cause of your difficulties, straining could mean you need more fiber in your diet.
8. How often do you eat split peas, beans or lentils?
- Score 1 point for each weekly meal that features these high fiber foods. Bonus: Score another point if you eat brown rice instead of white 3 to 4 times a week.
9. Do you snack on high fiber foods (popcorn, fresh or dried fruit or whole wheat pretzels)?
- Score 1 point if your snacks avoid refined pretzels, crackers or other fiberless sources of carbs and calories.
10. Do you eat cruciferous veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels’ sprouts) at least 3x a week?
- Score 1 point if these vegetables are a steady part of your diet. Cruciferous vegetables are balanced sources of soluble and insoluble fiber and they have other natural chemicals that can lower your risk of cancer.