Fitting fiber into your diet with real food

Over 90 percent of the American population does not consume enough fiber in their daily diet.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the recommended fiber intake for an American adult is 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. After age 50, daily fiber needs drop to 21 grams per day for women and 30 grams per day for men. Currently, American’s are only consuming about 10-18 grams of fiber per day. This means that over 90 percent of the American population does not consume enough fiber in their daily diet.

Fiber is found in plant products such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate. Most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules by the body, but fiber is not. Fiber cannot be digested by the body and therefore, passes through the digestive system helping to aid digestion and prevent constipation.

There are two different types of fiber – soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber turns into a gel in the body helping to lower glucose and cholesterol levels and can be found in foods such as oatmeal, nuts, beans, lentils, apples and blueberries. Insoluble fiber helps food move through the digestive system and adds bulk to the stool. Some examples include:

  • Whole wheat
  • Whole grains
  • Wheat bran
  • Corn bran
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Barley
  • Couscous
  • Brown rice
  • Bulgur
  • Zucchini
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Green beans
  • Dark leafy vegetables
  • Raisins
  • Grapes
  • Fruit
  • Root vegetable skins

Fiber has many other health benefits. Fiber helps you feel fuller faster, which can help with controlling weight and aiding in weight loss. Fiber helps people with diabetes regulate and lower blood glucose levels and can also help people lower their risk for cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol levels.

Michigan State University Extension recommends many ways to increase fiber in your diet using real food:

  • Leave the skin on whole fruits and vegetables
  • Choose brown rice, whole wheat bread and pastas over white bread and rice
  • Choose foods with “whole grain” listed as the first ingredient on the ingredient list
  • Add chopped vegetables to spaghetti sauces
  • Replace meat with beans in soups and chili
  • Snack on fruits and vegetables instead of chips and crackers
  • For breakfast choose oatmeal or other whole grain options
  • Make grains, beans or legumes the main dish of a meal

If you are on the low end of fiber intake, gradually increase the amount of fiber in your diet over the course of a few weeks to avoid gastrointestinal distress and gas.

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