The glycemic index of breads made from these new flours is also currently not known, according to the Consumer Affairs office at ConAgra. The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of the effect a food has on blood glucose level. Foods with a lower GI raise blood glucose less and more slowly than foods with a higher GI. Choosing lower-GI foods over higher-GI foods can therefore result in a lower blood glucose level after meals. Commercial breads made from either ordinary white flour or whole wheat flour tend to have a GI around 70, which is considered high.
Meal planning basics
Health-care professionals recommend that people with diabetes — and everyone else — make whole grains, fruits, and vegetables their first choice for fiber. “I’d rather my clients with diabetes choose a snack like air-popped popcorn than fiber-enhanced ice cream,” says Brown-Riggs. “A lot of these products do not have the same nutrient package.”
To increase the fiber in their diets, Moore recommends that her clients start the day with a whole-grain cereal or toast with fresh fruit, for a total of 6–10 grams of fiber. She advises looking for cereals that have at least 5 grams of fiber per serving and bread that has 3 grams of fiber per slice. For lunch, using whole-grain bread for a sandwich, including lettuce and tomato in the sandwich, and having a side salad of mixed greens and a pear adds another 10–12 grams of fiber. For dinner, stir-frying vegetables with chicken or tofu and serving it with brown rice adds another 6–10 grams of fiber. If you eat snacks, choose fiber-containing foods such as whole-grain crackers or fruit to meet your daily fiber goals.
Moore offers some other suggestions for increasing fiber intake such as adding beans to salads, soups, and sauces (such as marinara sauce for pasta). If gas is a problem when eating beans, try using the product Beano to reduce it, or eat beans in smaller quantities at first. In place of white rice, try whole wheat couscous or a less processed grain such as barley or bulgur wheat. “Keep it simple,” Moore says, “and readily available. Try roasting a large batch of vegetables at the beginning of the week to have as a side dish for meals throughout the week.” Great roasting vegetables include asparagus, onions, carrots, peppers, and squash.
When adding more fiber to your diet, add it gradually. Adding too much fiber too quickly can cause abdominal discomfort, gas pains, and bloating. It is also important to drink more fluid — as much as eight cups a day — as you add fiber to prevent constipation.
A proven nutrient
Dietary fiber has been one of the most talked-about nutrients for health promotion and disease prevention for years. In fact, fiber is among one of the very few nutrients for which the Food and Drug Administration allows health claims on food labels. So it was only a matter of time before the food manufacturers figured out a way to add fiber to foods in a way that would sell.
Currently, you have to read the ingredients list on a food package to know whether the fiber listed in the Nutrition Facts panel is naturally occurring fiber or added, isolated fiber. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the organization responsible for the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), is proposing that dietary fiber and isolated fiber be listed separately on food labels. As it stands now, total fiber on food labels is the sum of dietary fiber and added fiber.
But you don’t need to wait for updated food labels to start taking advantage of the benefits of fiber. Start by consuming more naturally high-fiber foods such as whole or minimally processed grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Use fiber-enhanced foods to add variety to your diet or to get in a few more grams of fiber — but not to replace the foods we know to be naturally healthy.