In a lot of ways fiber reminds me of what Mark Twain said about the weather. “Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.” So, here is an excellent rundown on fiber from the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter.
It is recommended that adults consume between 25 and 30 grams of dietary fiber a day. The average American currently gets about half that amount. According to the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, dietary fiber is a “nutrient of public health concern,” meaning this low level of intake could actually be detrimental to our health. So, it’s potentially good news that food manufacturers are adding fiber to processed foods. But is that fiber as good for our health as fiber found naturally in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains?
Health Benefits of Fiber. According to a research review co-authored by Nicola McKeown, PhD, a scientist with Tufts’ Nutritional Epidemiology program and an associate professor at the Friedman School, there is reproducible evidence that dietary fiber found naturally in foods has a role in lowering cholesterol, improving glycemic control, and preventing constipation. And fiber may have more health benefits as well. “Research in this field is continually expanding,” says McKeown. “We’ve only begun to consider things like how the gut microbiota utilize different types of dietary fibers to potentially impact health.” Continue reading →
Unlike the weather, as in Mark Twain’s famous quote, “Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it” fiber is different. Everybody talks about it and there is plenty we can do about it. Following is what the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has to say about it.
Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains all contain dietary fiber, a type of carbohydrate that provides minimal energy for the body. Although the body can’t use fiber efficiently for fuel, it’s an important part of a healthy eating plan and helps with a variety of health conditions.
Heart disease: Fiber may help prevent heart disease by helping reduce cholesterol.
Weight management: Fiber slows the speed at which food passes from the stomach to the rest of the digestive system – this can make us feel full longer. Foods that are higher in dietary fiber often are lower in calories as well.
Diabetes: Because fiber slows down how quickly food is broken down, it may help control blood sugar levels for people with diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels after meals.
Digestive issues: Fiber increases bulk in the intestinal tract and may help improve the frequency of bowel movements.
The recommended amount of dietary fiber is 14 grams for every 1,000 calories per day, or, about 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men each day. Your exact needs may vary depending on your energy needs.
Whole grains and beans tend to be higher in fiber than fruits and vegetables, but all are sources of dietary fiber and contribute other important nutrients. Make sure to include a variety of these foods regularly to meet your dietary fiber needs. These are a few tips to help increase your fiber intake from foods:
Mix in oats to meatloaf, bread or other baked goods.
Toss beans into your next salad or soup.
Chop up veggies to add to sandwiches or noodle dishes such as pasta or stir-fry.
Blend fruit into a smoothie or use it to top cereal, pancakes or desserts.
It also is important to drink plenty of water and to increase your fiber intake gradually in order to give your body time to adjust.