We all need some fiber every day. While it may not be very exciting to talk about fiber, it is important because it helps us stay healthy in a number of ways. And, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 show that most Americans are not getting nearly enough fiber in their daily diet.
What is fiber, and why do we need it? Fiber is a part of plants that we eat that is not readily broken down or absorbed in the small intestine during digestion. There are two basic types of fiber – soluble which can dissolve in water and insoluble which does not. Different types of fiber are found in different plants and this is one reason why it is important to eat a wide range of different fruits and vegetables. Fiber helps keep our digestive system moving and can help reduce our cholesterol, may help control blood sugar levels for people with diabetes, and can make you feel full more quickly which can help prevent overeating.
How much fiber do we need? The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendation for fiber intake for females is 25 g/day for age 19 to 50; and 21 g/day over age 50. For males, the IOM recommendation for fiber intake is 38 g/day for age 19 to 50 and 30 g/day over age 50. Fiber is found in fruits and vegetables. For example, one cup of cooked garbanzo beans provides 12.5 grams of fiber, 3/4 cup of bran flakes cereal provides 5.5 grams of fiber, 1 packet of instant oatmeal (28 grams) provides 3 grams of fiber and a medium apple with the skin provides 4.4 grams of fiber.
Barley is a good source of fiber and prepared in risotto style is a nice alternative to traditional rice risotto. In this recipe I’ve made pearl barley in the style of risotto and have added grated squash and cotija cheese.
Recipe: Barley Squash Risotto (serves 6-8)
spray canola oil
3 Tbsp. chopped onion
1 cup pearl barley
1 cup shredded zucchini
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup cotija cheese
Place chicken broth in small saucepan and heat gently on stove. Spray large saucepan with canola oil and saute chopped onion for 3-5 minutes until soft. Add pearl barley and stir. Add chicken broth 1/4 to 1/2 cup at a time to barley mixture and stir over medium to high heat. Continue adding broth and stirring. Just before you add last portion of broth, stir in the zucchini. When barley is soft, zucchini is cooked and all broth is absorbed, turn off heat and stir in the cotija cheese. Serve immediately.
Approximate nutrition information per serving (based on 6 servings): 170 calories; 3.5 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 0 grams transfat; 10 mg cholesterol; 190 mg sodium; 28 grams carbohydrate; 6 grams dietary fiber; 7 grams protein.