Are You Getting Enough Fiber?
Fiber-rich foods offer numerous health benefits, but sadly, few of us are consuming enough in our daily diets.
If you’re eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, you might think you’re getting adequate fiber.
But if you’re like the majority of Americans, you’re not.
Time after time, surveys conducted throughout the U.S. show that few of us are consuming enough roughage.
At least 21 to 38 grams per day, depending on your age and your sex. But in reality, only 4 percent of men and 12 percent of women, according to one study, met these fiber recommendations.
The source of the deficit
It could be that you’re not choosing the right foods. But it’s just as likely that your fiber deficit comes from eating processed foods. Through food processing, foods like white rice, white bread and white flour, get to their final stage sans fiber. This is done to improve the food’s texture and shelf life.
But switching over to whole grain from processed is not as daunting as it might seem, nor are you giving up flavor. (Personally, I prefer the nuttier, chewier texture of whole wheat and whole grain foods.)
If you’re ready to make the switch, just keep in mind that all grains are not created equal: they come in two sub-groups; whole grain and refined grains. You want the former, not the latter. Click here for more helpful info.
Why all the fiber fuss?
Fiber is a valuable type of carbohydrate that travels through the gut and aids in regulating our body’s use of sugars.
Generally speaking, consuming 25-29 grams of fiber each day is enough to reap fiber’s many health benefits, including:
Reduced risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and some cancers
Lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight
And of course, there are the benefits of helping with the other ‘C’ word: Constipation.
The USDA weighs in with this info:
Dietary fiber intake is recommended at 14 grams per 1,000 calories of food. For example, at a 2,000 calorie reference level (which is appropriate for some but not all people) the daily dietary fiber intake should be 28 grams. You can check the Nutrition Facts label on the back or side of food packaging for that food's fiber content. Some of the best sources of dietary fiber include: beans and peas, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts.
Fiber helps soften and bulk up your stool, making it easier to pass. But there are a few caveats.
Not all fiber is helpful with constipation; some, like finely ground wheat bran and solid/fermented wheat dextran, can make it worse.
Look for foods containing soluble (as in apples, bananas, barley, oats, and beans) and insoluble (as in whole grains, most veggies, and legumes) fiber. Soluble fiber gives bulk to your stool; insoluble fiber speeds the transit of food through your digestive tract.
Food labels are valuable for fiber-sleuthing. Look for the term “dietary fiber;” which should be about 2 grams or more.
If you kick up your fiber intake, go slowly (#don’tbiteoffmorethanyoucanchew). You might shun fiber because it causes too much gas and bloating. But this might be because you’re ingesting too much, too soon. Also, it’s important to drink enough water along with your fiber intake, which allows the fiber to bind and prevents it from hardening. (Aim for flat water, as carbonated water can make gas worse.)
If you’re unable to get enough fiber through foods, a supplement can be added to your repertoire. (But keep in mind supplements don’t contain the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that foods do.) Like foods, start out slowly to avoid gas and bloating.
For a Pause!
40 fiber-rich foods from Women’s Health.
Beat the bloat and tame your gas; here’s how.
Gas-relief comes in a pill form, too.
Fiber tips, including chia seeds, from Eating Well.
One More Thing: