Varied Diet Is an Excellent Source of Necessary Fiber

In spite of proclamations by the National Cancer Institute that at least one-third of all cancer deaths in the United States may be related to the foods we eat, Americans still don’t get enough fiber in their diets.

It is estimated that the average American consumes a mere 11 grams of fiber each day, compared to the 25 to 35 grams recommended by the institute. And, while studies have proven that public awareness of the link between diet and heart disease is on the rise--from 45% in 1982 to 80% in the mid 1980s--there are still too many people who are overweight and who do not eat properly.

The second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted by the USDA, showed that on the day of the survey: 79% of the respondents ate no fruits or vegetables high in Vitamin A, 72% ate no fruits or vegetables rich in Vitamin C, 84% ate no high-fiber bread or cereal, 82% ate no cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage or cauliflower), 41% ate no fruit at all, and 49% ate no vegetables other than potatoes, beans or salad. In addition to the nutrients these foods provide that were mentioned, all of these are excellent sources of fiber.

Accurate Terms


Dietary fiber, roughage and bulk are all accurate terms for the undigestible part of plants that is important to human beings for digestion. “Normal and Therapeutic Nutrition,” by Corinne H. Robinson, et. al., (Macmillan Publishing Co.: 1986) explains that the importance of fiber in maintaining normal elimination has been recognized for centuries.

Recently, however, there has been renewed interest in the role of fiber in the diet--the result of reports that in epidemiologic studies of cultures with a high-fiber intake a low incidence of diverticulitis, irritable colon, hernia, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes, dental caries and gallstones can be demonstrated.

“People in the Western world whose diets are low in fiber have a high incidence of these diseases,” the book explains.

Insoluble fiber is widespread in such foods as wheat bran, peas, dried figs, beans and legumes. It is the thread or wood-like part found in the husks and shells. This variety of fiber holds water and thus increases bulk, thereby hastening the amount of time it takes for food to move through the digestive system. The result: Toxic substances that may be present in food, such as carcinogens, stay in the body less time.

Similarly Beneficial

Soluble fiber, such as that found in the cell walls of oats, apples, pears and citrus fruits, is similarly beneficial for increasing bulk and promoting laxation. But because it is dissolved in water, it has the capacity to form gels. This slows digestion and delays the absorption of carbohydrates into the body, which reportedly helps to stabilize blood sugar levels by decreasing the body’s insulin secretion. A lower blood cholesterol can result.

When deciding to include more fiber, of either type in the diet, it is important to include it as part of a varied diet--one in which a wide assortment of food categories are represented. This, according to the institute, is the best way to ensure that all the nutrients--including fiber--that the body needs, are provided.

Here are some foods and the amount of fiber they provide: one-half cup high-fiber cereal that can offer, depending upon the commercial brand, between 4 and 13 grams of fiber; one-half cup kidney or navy beans, 6 to 7 grams; one-half cup lima beans, 4.5 grams; one cup-whole wheat spaghetti, 3.9 grams; one-half cup broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots or corn, 2 to 3 grams; one medium apple, three dried prunes, one-fourth cup raisins, one-half cup green peas or one cup strawberries, 3 to 4 grams; and three dried dates, five dried apricot halves, one-half cup green beans, one slice whole-wheat bread or one-half cup fresh pineapple, 1.5 to 2 grams.


1 (3-ounce) package Neufchatel cheese

2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

1 1/2 tablespoons chutney

24 whole, pitted dates

6 cups cut-up fresh fruit such as pineapple, bananas, melons, berries, kiwi, apples, oranges, pears and grapes

Ginger-Citrus Dressing

Lettuce leaves

Mint sprigs

Combine cheese, nuts and chutney. Fill each date cavity with about 1 teaspoon mixture and chill. Just before serving, toss fruit with some Ginger-Citrus Dressing. Arrange along with dates on lettuce-lined plates, dividing equally. Spoon remaining dressing over all. Garnish with mint. Makes 6 servings.

Ginger-Citrus Dressing

1/4 cup oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons grated ginger root

1/2 teaspoon grated orange or lemon zest



Whisk together oil, vinegar, juice, ginger, zest and honey and salt to taste in small bowl or measuring cup.


1 chayote squash or 2 zucchini or yellow squash

1 1/4 cups cooked black-eyed peas

Bibb or romaine lettuce leaves

2 tablespoons chopped pimiento

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

Cut chayote into 1/8ths and remove inner seed. (Or slice zucchini lengthwise.) Steam squash over boiling water 10 minutes or until nearly tender. (Cook zucchini 3 minutes.) Rinse peas in cool water and drain well. Line salad platter with lettuce leaves and arrange squash slices, overlapping, on lettuce. Spoon peas over squash and sprinkle with pimiento.

Combine vinegar, oil and garlic in jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake until well mixed. Pour over salad and serve. Makes 6 servings.


2 tablespoons oil

2 shallots, peeled and sliced

1 cup chopped green or sweet red pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup chopped mushrooms

1 1/4 cups cooked black-eyed peas

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon chopped thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon crushed dried

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

Heat oil in large skillet. Saute shallots, green pepper and garlic 3 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and saute 2 minutes longer. Stir in peas, tomatoes, thyme, salt, peppers and hot pepper sauce. Cook and stir occasionally 5 minutes longer. Makes 6 servings.


1/2 cup chopped onion

1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon butter, margarine or oil

1 cup green or yellow split peas

1 quart chicken stock

1 bay leaf

1 cup diced cooked ham

Dash pepper

1/4 cup diced celery

4 small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

Saute onion and garlic in butter in large saucepan until tender. Add peas, stock, bay leaf, ham and pepper. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until peas are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add celery, carrots and potatoes to soup, cover and simmer until vegetables are just tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Makes 4 servings.


5 cups water

1 pound lentils, rinsed and drained

1 (16-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup diced celery

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons salt

1 (16-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup diced carrot

1/2 cup diced green pepper

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes

Shredded Cheddar cheese

Combine water, lentils, garbanzo beans, onion, celery, garlic, cumin, salt, kidney beans, carrot, green pepper, chili powder and red pepper flakes in large heavy pan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes until lentils are almost tender.

Drain tomatoes, reserving juice. Chop tomatoes, then add along with juice to pan. Simmer, uncovered, until lentils are tender, about 10 minutes. Garnish with cheese. Makes 8 servings.


3/4 cup nonfat milk

2 egg whites

1/2 cup toasted wheat bran

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, mined

2 tablespoons minced parsley

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground turkey

Combine milk and egg whites. Stir in bran, onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Add ground beef and turkey and mix well. Press mixture firmly into 9x5-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees 55 to 60 minutes. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before removing from pan. Serve hot or cold with tomato sauce, if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.


1 cup toasted wheat bran

3/4 cup wheat flour

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup nonfat milk

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

2 egg whites, beaten

Combine bran, flours, baking powder and salt in bowl. Add milk, honey, butter and egg whites and stir just until moistened. Fill 12 paper-lined muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees 18 to 20 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 12 muffins.


1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 egg whites

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup toasted wheat bran

2/3 cup flake coconut

1/4 cup oats

2 tablespoons nonfat milk

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chocolate pieces

Place nuts in food processor container and process until finely chopped. Pour into small bowl and set aside.

Combine butter, sugars, vanilla and egg whites in food processor container. Process until well mixed. Add flour, bran, coconut, oats, milk, baking powder, salt, chocolate pieces and nuts and pulse until just mixed.

Drop by rounded teaspoons on non-stick baking sheet. Flatten slightly. Bake at 350 degrees 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.