It’s time for another edition of the Dietary Guidelines Nutrients of Concern Series!
Last week, we talked about calcium: what it is, where to find it, how it affects your health, and what happens when you don’t get enough of it. Today we want to do the same thing with dietary fiber.
So, what is dietary fiber?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “Dietary fiber is the non-digestible form of carbohydrates and lignin.” Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that is considered a vital nutrient.
You can find fiber in plant foods. Vegetables, fruits, and most whole grains are excellent sources of fiber. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have listed the top food sources of fiber, and they include…
- Black Beans
- Bran Cereal
- Leafy Greens
- Navy Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Split Peas
- Sweet Potatoes
- Whole Grain Bread
- Winter Squash
Fiber is a versatile nutrient, playing key roles in a variety of aspects of good health. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans assert “Dietary fiber that occurs naturally in foods may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.” They continue, “Dietary fiber […] helps provide a feeling of fullness, and is important in promoting healthy laxation.” In other words, fiber reduces your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, while making it easier to maintain a normal weight. It also helps your digestive system work well. Really, fiber is quite amazing. That’s why the guidelines maintain, “Children and adults should consume foods naturally high in dietary fiber in order to increase nutrient density, promote healthy lipid profiles and glucose tolerance, and ensure normal gastrointestinal function.”
Now let’s talk about how much fiber you should eat in a day. Are you getting enough?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “The AI [adequate intake] for fiber is 14 g per 1,000 calories, or 25 g per day for women and 38 g per day for men. Most Americans greatly underconsume dietary fiber, and usual intake averages only 15 g per day.” That’s way below the recommendations!
To turn things around, the guidelines assert, “To meet the recommendation for fiber, Americans should increase their consumption of beans and peas, other vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other foods with naturally occurring fiber.” The emphasis here is on naturally-occurring fiber. Just like with calcium, some forms of fiber may not be the best sources. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans assert, “Fiber is sometimes added to foods and it is unclear if added fiber provides the same health benefits as naturally occurring sources.” Instead, focus on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
If you don’t get enough fiber, then you raise your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, while neglecting to offer your digestive system all the tools that it needs. Don’t let that happen! Make an effort to get enough fiber, every day.
If you like what you saw in today’s post, then you’ll love this brand-new PDF handout!
Fiber is one of my favorite health topics, so my team and I have created lots of top-notch resources to help educators teach their clients about it. Here are a few popular options from the Nutrition Education Store…
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.