How To Get Enough Fiber in Summer
What foods come to mind when you think of summer? Ice cream? Watermelon? Barbecue ribs? Summertime is full of delicious eats but not all of them are the healthiest options. In fact, some studies have shown that children and parents can eat up to 5 times more sugar during summer than any other season out of the year. That’s a lot of sugar and it has a huge impact on your body.
Restructuring those summertime meals to better fit your health needs is crucial, especially for women in perimenopause and menopause. Summer is reported as a hot flash heavy season for women experiencing menopausal symptoms, and the foods we eat can make those vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats) worse. Caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars, and spicy foods can fool the body into triggering a hot flash.
So how can we better reflect the body’s needs in our meals during the summer? We can eat more fiber.
Why is Fiber Important?
There’s a reason your doctor suggests you eat more fruits, vegetables. Dietary fibers are fibers that cannot be broken down and digested by the body. Instead, these fibers help feed and fuel the growth of gut bacteria that populate the digestive tract, otherwise known as the gut microbiome. When these gut bacteria are imbalanced, it affects how well nutrients are absorbed into your bloodstream. When not enough nutrients are absorbed into the body, they get passed out through waste, which means the body doesn’t get enough nutrients to help maintain its many regulatory functions.
Nutritional deficiencies caused by gut dysbiosis (imbalanced gut bacteria) can be especially harmful to women undergoing the menopausal transition, as the changes to sex hormone levels make it more difficult for the body to regulate itself. Women undergoing menopause have a higher risk of developing certain illnesses like heart disease and osteoporosis. Consuming enough fiber can, not only help balance healthy gut bacteria, but it can also help slow down the digestion process, allowing the body more time to absorb essential nutrients from foods and supplements.
So how can you get more fiber into your diet this summer?
Shop Seasonal Produce
Shopping seasonally can seem like a daunting task at first, but it’s very simple once you get the hang of it. The success of shopping seasonally comes down to three major things: where you live, the time of season, and quality. Different produce items will be available to you based on where you live. For example if you live in Connecticut you may have more leafy greens and fresh herb options than someone who lives in New Mexico. Be aware of what’s available in your area.
The second thing to consider is how early or late the season is. Produce options will be slightly different in early June versus late August. Some fruits and vegetables will be more ripe in the beginning of the season and some will be more ripe in toward the end of the season. Some produce options may be more rare than others and will probably sell faster because of this, so be sure to visit your local farmer’s market often to see what’s new and what’s still available.
Lastly, remember to always be on the lookout for the quality of your produce options. If your options aren’t at the best quality, don’t worry. You can always try again. You can go to your local supermarket if you think you’ll have better luck there. There are a variety of services that offer fresh produce delivered right to your door, along with meal plans and prepping materials to help you save time and money.
Less Sugar, More Fruits & Veggies
Although sugary treats can be a delight, they can also make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight, and increase the likelihood of experiencing hot flashes and night sweats. While the occasional treat is a delight, it shouldn’t become a daily habit. So when you feel that sweet-tooth calling, skip the sugar and go straight for some fruits or vegetables.
Eating a few light snacks through the day may actually help you better control your portions during mealtime. You may find you’re less likely to eat large dinners or lunches that would normally leave you feeling sluggish and tired. Eating fiber-rich snacks can help you feel fuller for longer and feed the gut microbiome what it needs to stay healthy. Some great snacking options include blueberries, strawberries, peas, carrots, mango, peaches, and apricots.
When the barbecue grill comes out during those hotter months, throwing some veggies on can be just as tasty as those burgers, hot dogs, or steaks. Grilled vegetables can be a great addition to your regular meals. They’re full of flavor and provide a lot of interesting textures to any dish. Of course, you can grill fruits too. Grilled peaches, pears, even grilled mangos can be tantalizing and delicious.
If you’re the adventurous type and you want to get crazy with your grilled fruits and veggie options, look for some interesting recipes that spark your interest. Some people make salads entirely out of grilled vegetables and a little bit of quinoa or rice. Some people make grilled fruit desserts with a light drizzle of honey and some high quality cheeses. The point is, there are thousands of options for you to choose from to give that grill a little more sizzle.
Get Creative With Summer Salads
Most people aren’t fans of salads. We get it. Sometimes they can be a bit bland and boring at a time when you want your food to be delicious and exciting. So how can you spice things up, without literally being too spicy? Remember spicy foods are a hot flash trigger!
Mix and match different ingredients in those summer salads. Use unusual fruits and vegetables. Mango, tangerines, spinach, some light feta cheese, and grilled chicken can make a delightful summer salad. Add some grains to your salads too. Foods like quinoa, brown rice, and jasmine rice can add some great textural contrast to summer salads and provide the gut with more fiber to keep it healthy and happy.
Create a Meal Plan
Honestly, the best thing to do to stay healthy during the summer is to create a meal plan. Planning out your meals can help you better tailor your shopping list to meet your health needs. Look at the areas in your diet that could use the most improvement and work your way from there. Feel free to speak to a doctor, dietician, or certified nutritionist to help you better structure your meal plan to meet your dietary needs.
Have a Happy, Healthy Summer!
As the temperature climbs, so too should your happiness and overall health. Incorporating more fiber into your diet, alongside your other nutritional needs, can help you support a healthier gut microbiome, and a healthier you. Take an honest look at your diet right now and decide where you want to adjust it to fulfill your needs. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor about your individual dietary requirements. Don’t be afraid to ask them about regularity issues, as you may experience some initial gassiness, bloating, or changes to your bowel movements by increasing your fiber intake. Don’t worry, your body will adjust to it, just give it time.