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Adding fiber

Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet and has been shown to help lower blood glucose, blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels. It also helps to maintain the health of the colon, and a diet high in fiber promotes weight control since high-fiber foods cause you to feel fuller with fewer calories. Many high-fiber foods such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables are loaded with other healthy nutrients, too. You can add fiber to your recipes by using ingredients such as whole-wheat pasta, high-fiber cereals, whole-wheat flour, fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds.

To add fiber to homemade breads, cakes, pancakes or cookies, try substituting whole-wheat flour for one-fourth to one-half of the all-purpose flour called for in the recipe. This will change the final flavor, appearance and texture of the product, so if you and your family are not used to the flavor of whole-grain foods, you may want to start by replacing only one-fourth of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour. As you become accustomed to eating more whole grains, you can increase the proportion of whole-wheat flour.

If you prefer the lighter color of products made with all-purpose flour, try white whole-wheat flour. It has all the fiber and nutrition of traditional whole-wheat flour with a milder flavor and lighter color.

Whole-wheat pastry flour is milled from lower-protein, softer wheat than whole-wheat flour. It can replace half of the all-purpose flour when making items such as cookies, pie crusts, cakes and muffins.

In other types of dishes, such as casseroles and soups, you can incorporate more fiber by adding extra vegetables or dried beans and by replacing refined grains such as white rice or pasta with less refined grains such as bulgur, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa or whole-grain pasta. Even regular bread crumbs can be replaced with high-fiber cereal crumbs for additional fiber.

Originally Published February 28, 2011

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