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Fitting in Fiber: Clean Cuisine That Keeps You Lean

By Ryan Hutmacher and Sara Haas

Fiber. You hear that word and automatically pictures of prunes, dissolving drink supplements and twig-like cereals pop into your mind.  With those images, it's no wonder that it's hard to get excited about fiber.  Maybe you haven't heard the news, but fiber isn't just for your grandma anymore! 

Fiber is something we all need, and athletes especially benefit from getting adequate amounts of it in their diet.  Research from the Journal of Nutrition claims that eating more fiber can prevent weight gain and also promote weight loss. 

So what is fiber exactly?  Fiber is a natural component of all plants and is found in all fruits, vegetables and grains. There are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and both are important to your health.  Soluble fiber is found in foods such as beans, peas, lentils, oat bran, nuts, barley and seeds. It is called soluble because in your body it mixes with liquid and creates a gel-like substance.  Soluble fiber helps you feel full and also has been proven to help lower cholesterol.  Insoluble fiber is the second type of fiber and is lovingly referred to as "Nature's Broom" by the health care community.  Insoluble fiber is the good stuff that adds bulk and helps move things through your digestive tract.  This is a very good thing!  You can find insoluble fiber in whole grains, wheat bran and vegetables.

So when should you incorporate fiber into your daily eating regimen?  As triathletes, we crave hearty foods that don't sit heavily.  Along with the notion of ample protein, fiber should become part of your post-workout routine.  Not only is it beneficial in keeping your belly full, but it is also important for heart and intestinal health.  As our appetites fluctuate, fiber allows us to achieve equilibrium between feeling satiated and nourished rather than hungry and lethargic.  This issue is all too common with all who train several times a day.

Pre-workout: high-carb / low-fiber vs. Post-workout: high-protein / high-fiber

The recommended amount of fiber you should consume daily is 25-35 grams.  That does not sound like much, but it turns out that Americans are only getting about half of that each day!  What can you do to make sure you are getting enough?  Check out some of our favorite recipes below and include more fruits, vegetables and whole grain foods in your diet. 

Good Sources of Fiber:

Food Source

Serving Size

Amount of Fiber (grams)

Raspberries

1 cup

8g

Pear (with skin)

1 medium

5.5g

Whole wheat pasta

1 cup

6.2g

Barley, cooked

1 cup

6g

Lentils, cooked*

1 cup

15.6g

Black beans, cooked

1 cup

15g

Broccoli, florets

1 cup

5.1g

Oatmeal, conventional

¾ cup

7.7g

Garbanzo beans*

1 cup

10.6g

Artichoke hearts

1 cup

7.2g

*denotes recipe below

Recipe Credits: Centered Chef Food Studios

Red Lentil and Curry Soup

Makes 6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 ½ tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 ½ cup red lentils (pick over to ensure no debris or rocks)
  • 8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ cup tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Sriracha, to taste

Method

Place a large pot over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Add the onions and sauté until they are soft and slightly translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, ginger, curry and cumin and sauté another 5 minutes.

Add the cinnamon stick, lentils and chicken broth to the pot and stir.  Turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down and allow the soup to simmer, partially covered for about 40 minutes or until the lentils are cooked.

Take the soup off of the heat.  Remove half of the soup and allow to cool slightly* or until warm to the touch.  Keep the other half warm on the stove.  Place the cooled soup in a blender (or process with a hand mixer) and pulse until pureed.  Stir pureed mixture back into pot of soup.  Blend well. 

To serve, place the soup in bowls and garnish with cilantro and sriracha

*Note-It is not advised to puree hot items in a blender due to the build of pressure generated from the steam.  Be safe and allow your soup to cool slightly to prevent injuring yourself.

Roasted Red Pepper Basil Hummus

Makes 8 (1/4 cup) servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups canned or home-cooked garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste, available in the nut butter aisle)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup jarred or canned roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into thin strips
  • salt and white pepper, to taste

Method

Blend the first 8 ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add water 1 tablespoon at a time until the hummus reaches a smooth, spoon-able consistency.

Serve with freshly cut veggies, toasted pita chips, snack crackers or as a condiment on a sandwich.

Notes

As a rule of thumb when using dried beans instead of canned, the ratio is 1 part dry, uncooked beans to 3 parts canned beans, drained and rinsed.

To cook dried beans, spread beans out on a large cookie sheet and sift through looking for stones.  For the most even cooking and shortest cooking time, soak the beans in water 3 times the volume of the beans for 8 to 12 hours at room temperature.  Drain the beans, replace with fresh cold water and cook by bringing to a boil and then lowering to a slow simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours (it may be more or less depending on the age and type of bean).  Adding salt or acidic ingredients may toughen the beans and should be added near the end of cooking.

Chef Ryan Hutmacher is owner of Centered Chef Food Studios in Chicago, IL.  Centered Chef is a wellness focused culinary consulting and educational firm that fuses nutrition with culinary arts.  With a focus on natural ingredients, Ryan celebrates the idea reinventing "health food", proving that nutritious and delicious are equally attainable.  His expertise is notable within the marathon and triathlon community in Chicago. 

Along with his staff dietitian and co-writer, Chef Sara Haas (RD/LDN), Ryan appears both locally and nationally on television stations like WGN Superstation, where they give practical solutions to preparing food both easily and healthfully.

Chef Ryan's Culinary Wellness Initiative: http://vimeo.com/8796801

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