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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

How To Increase Fiber in a Low-Carb Diet

Many people, but more especially folks on a low-carbohydrate diet complain of not getting enough fiber. A typical diet yields fiber from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes. For the low-carber who is very strictly low-carbing, that typically excludes most of those, leaving only plenty of vegetables, and some fruits such as berries in moderate quantities.

According to the American Heart Association, fiber is “important for the health of the digestive system and for lowering cholesterol. Insoluble fiber has been associated with decreased cardiovascular risk and slower progression of cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals. Dietary fiber may promote satiety by slowing gastric emptying, leading to an overall decrease in calorie intake. Foods high in insoluble fiber include whole-wheat breads, wheat cereals, wheat bran, rye, rice, barley, most other grains, cabbage, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, turnips, cauliflower and apple skin. Foods high in soluble fiber include oat bran, oatmeal, beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and apple pulp.

Reading the above recommendations for fiber, it is clear from that list that low-carbers have slightly fewer choices. However, Low-carbers have become quite clever in increasing their daily fiber intake. Dr. Atkins suggested taking pysillium husks in water before bedtime. If I use it, I usually take 1 tablespoon in a full glass of water, stir and drink really quickly. There is a powdered form and a more coarse form (this is easier to take in my opinion), however, the caplets would be the easiest of all to take.

These days I like to get fiber in my diet from making my Splendid Low-Carb Bake Mix {with coconut flour (available from netrition.com – 61% fiber) instead of with sucralose-sweetened vanilla whey protein powder (available in Costco and in health food stores)}. There are two other ingredients in the bake mix and one of them adds some fiber as well, but not a whole lot. One of my cookbooks contains a nut free bake mix, using ground flax seeds instead, which means it is higher in fiber. There is another “flour” on the market also available from Netrition called Carbalose flour. It is very high in fiber (per 100 grams, 48 grams carbs and 29 grams insoluble fiber) and it is recommended to start slowly with this product. Again, I will sometimes use it in my other bake mixes, such as the Vital Ultimate Bake Mixes, adding a small amount in place of some of the particular flour required.

Most recently I made the Award Winning Brownies and the Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies from my latest cookbook, Splendid Low-Carbing for Life, Volume 2. I used the above idea of coconut flour in my bake mix. They turned out great! The thing with coconut flour (61% fiber) is that one cannot really discern a strong coconut flavor, therefore, it works really well, disguised with other flavors in baking. It is particularly low-carb with 2 tablespoons containing 10 grams of carbohydrate and 9 grams of fiber, making that a net carbohydrate value of 1 gram! Since it contains no gluten, it is suitable for folks with celiac disease and for folks who are sensitive to wheat gluten. I would not recommend using coconut flour solely in place of flour, as sometimes baked products can turn out rather dry.

Other alternatives for high fiber in baking are wheat bran, oat bran, rice bran and flax seeds. It is possible to add wheat bran or oat bran to hamburgers or meat loaf, let alone in baking, such as muffins, loaves and low-carb breads. I am less familiar with coconut fiber, polydextrose fiber (90%) and oat fiber (100%). These would be a little harsh for some people and should at first be used in very small quantities.

A rule of thumb: Start increasing fiber cautiously in the diet to prevent cramping and other adverse side effects.

As one can see, there are many, innovative ideas for increasing fiber in our diets.