Are you consuming enough daily fiber? Let’s face it ⎯ the answer is probably “no.” That’s because fiber is one of the nutrients most people tend to skip over in their daily diet.
And guess what? Most healthy adults aren’t even close to meeting the daily-recommended intakes of 20-35 grams, according to the American Diabetes Association. The average fiber intake in the U.S. is 14-15 grams a day.
Most fiber can be found in unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans. But let’s be realistic: In a country where one-third of U.S. adults are obese, people aren’t exactly stacking their plates with these items.
According to WebMD, a high-fiber diet has been known to lower cholesterol levels and prevent constipation. Higher-fiber diets also tend to contain more nutrients and fewer calories ⎯ which are digested at a slower rate, and help the body feel “fuller."
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Fiber is responsible for other important functions in our body:
- The more “gummy” types of fiber ⎯ like those found in breads, cereal and oats⎯can assist in stabilizing a person’s blood glucose and insulin levels. This is especially important with people with type 2 diabetes or people with a high risk of heart disease.
- A recent study by the American Diabetes Association revealed that a higher-carb, lower-fat diet ⎯ which includes the recommended daily fiber intake ⎯ may be beneficial for treating people with syndrome X ⎯ an insulin-resistant condition linked to obesity.
- Fiber from whole grains, vegetables and beans, may also help protect against breast cancer.
And if that wasn’t enough incentive, a study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that a fiber-rich diet may help reduce a person’s chances of developing kidney cancer in their lifetime.
The study showed that people on a high-fiber eating plan ⎯ consuming roughly 17 grams per 1,000 calories ⎯ had a 19 percent decrease in kidney cancer risk, as opposed to the people who took in the least.
Despite what many Americans think, fiber isn’t all greens. Here’s a small list of foods to eat that contain a relatively decent amount of fiber:
- Potato (1 large baked, skin on): 6 grams
- Cauliflower (1 small head, raw): 5 grams
- Turnips (1 cup, boiled & mashed): 5 grams
- Corn (1 cup): 4 grams
If you’re one of the many Americans who need to increase their daily fiber intake, do so by eating more beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grain breads and cereals several times a week to start. This gradual increase will help minimize some of the side effects of fiber, such as intestinal gas.
Think of your body like a well-oiled machine: the better you take care of it, the smoother it will function.