IF THERE IS A MACRONUTRIENT CATEGORY THAT AMERICANS ARE FAMILIAR WITH, IT’S CARBOHYDRATES! We love our carbs. Consider the last time you consumed pasta, bread, cereal, chips, popcorn, rice, fruit juice, soda pop, beer, wine, or an energy drink. These foods and food products are jam-packed with carbohydrates, some healthier than others. While many are highly processed, there are whole food sources of carbohydrates, including some of our favorites: green leafy kale, carrots, sweet potatoes, black beans, brown rice, and whole fruit. Plant foods will provide the large majority of carbohydrates in our diet.
Fiber is a powerful guide in your journey towards a more plant-based diet. Excellent food sources of fiber include: whole fruits; vegetables; beans, peas, and other legumes; nuts and seeds; and whole grains. Notice that plant foods provide fiber (through their cellulose content) while animal products, such as meat and dairy, do not. The fiber content of whole foods is compromised when it is highly processed, such as, whole fruit into fruit juice, vegetables into vegetable juice, and whole grains into refined grains
Whole grains can be a delicious source of high-fiber foods in any meal. Examples of whole grains include: barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oats, whole corn, whole wheat, wild rice, quinoa, teff, and amaranth. We previously discussed the change in processing of whole grains over time; let’s now take a closer look at the change in nutrition, including fiber content, when whole grains are refined.
A couple of simple ways to increase fiber in your diet is to eat a whole piece of fruit and skip the juice or to choose whole grains (brown rice, for example) over refined grains (white rice). Add vegetables to every plate. Include fiber-rich foods alongside foods that contain no fiber: meat, dairy, poultry, and eggs. Beans and legumes can provide a fiber-rich alternative to animal protein at some meals. Refer to the chart to see how you measure up with your daily fiber intake.