The Dietary Guidelines urge people to increase their fiber intake. Many of the modern “diseases of wealth” have been linked to low fiber diets. The long list includes constipation, hemorrhoids, appendicitis, varicose veins, bowel cancer, diabetes, and even heart disease.

The main function of fiber is to create a mass in the intestines that helps eliminate waste material. Good sources of fiber include fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals, whole wheat bread, brown rice, corn, bran, muesli, dried beans, fresh and dried fruit, baked beans, and nuts.

Fast foods are often deficient in fiber because they lack fresh vegetables, fruits, or whole grains. Low-fiber foods are generally concentrated in kilojoules.

Many kilojoules can be consumed quickly, contributing to overweight and obesity.

White flour, being highly processed, contains little fiber, so pizza crusts and hamburger buns are not good sources. According to a recent survey, a McDonald’s cheeseburger contains virtually no fiber. Deep fried potato chips will provide some fiber, but they are not the best source due to fat and salt issues.

If you’re worried about fiber, a salad sandwich and a piece of fruit is a much better option than a Chiko Roll for lunch. Fiber-wise, you’d be better off making a baked bean sandwich than eating a piece of fried chicken—and cheaper, too!

those vital vitamins

Vitamins A and C are hard to find in takeout food, although some vitamin C is present in French fries and fruit juices. For vitamins, a fruit juice is a better value than a soft drink. Other good sources of vitamins are fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and whole grains. It’s nice to see some fast food outlets selling fresh fruit salads in addition to the traditional takeout. Encouraging a nutritious diet of complex carbohydrates and fiber found in grains, fruits, and vegetables is part of the government’s Dietary Guidelines.

Use your imagination and shop for groceries we don’t normally think of as fast food: the produce store sells the best fast food and the snack bar provides a good source of vitamins, minerals and fiber, especially when the snacks are made with whole wheat bread. Low-fat yogurt from the supermarket, grilled chicken in preference to fried chicken, and vegetarian or seafood pizzas are nutritious fast food options.

a sweet tooth

Lots of people have soft drinks and desserts with their fast food. But remember, these foods are high in sugar. In Western countries we consume too much refined sugar, an average of more than 47 kilograms per person per year. This equates to about 35 teaspoons of sugar per person per day. About 70% of the sugar we eat is hidden in processed foods.

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