Did you know that most American adults do not consume the recommended daily intake of fiber? In fact, the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is 20-35 grams, but the average American only consumes about 16 grams of dietary fiber per day.
What is dietary fiber and why is it so important?
Dietary fiber is a form of carbohydrate that is not digested or absorbed. It stays within the intestines and helps with the digestion of other foods. Consumption of a high-fiber diet has many potential health benefits, including:
- Treats and prevents digestive issues (such as constipation, diarrhea, diverticulitis, hemorrhoids)
- Provides bulk to the stool, making it softer and easier to pass
- Reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke by 40-50 percent
- Reduces the risk of developing diabetes and helps control glucose levels in people who have diabetes
- Helps maintain a healthy weight
Watch this video by HealthiNation for more information about dietary fiber and its many health benefits!
What can I eat to make sure I am getting enough fiber?
Some of the best high fiber foods are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
What to avoid: refined or processed foods (canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and non-whole-grain cereals). These are low in fiber! Why? The refinement process actually removes the outer coating (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fiber content.
How can I eat more fiber on a regular basis?
Check out these great tips and tricks from the Mayo Clinic for how to include more fiber in your daily diet.
A study from 2014 found that adults who ate the most whole grains also had the highest dietary fiber intake. There are countless recipes that incorporate whole grains into common foods. Here are a couple of our favorites, which both provide 11 grams of dietary fiber per serving, which is 44 percent of your recommended daily intake!
- Thinking about making pancakes this weekend? Try these delicious, high-fiber, Banana Buckwheat Pancakes from The Wheatless Kitchen!
- Looking for fresh dinner ideas? This whole-wheat spaghetti recipe from the Food Network incorporates swiss chard for an extra boost of fiber!
Adding too much fiber too quickly can cause intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping, so gradually increase the amount of fiber in your diet over a few weeks to allow the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change.
Fiber works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky, so be sure to also incorporate hydration into your daily routine!
Jessica Barrow, Gussie Belisle, and Emily Scribner are Registered Nurses and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) candidates in the Department of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Vermont.
- Hoy, M. K., Goldman, J. D. (2014). Fiber intake of the U.S. Population. What We Eat In America, NHANES 2009-2010. Food Surveys Research Group Dietary Data Brief No. 12.
- Mayo Clinic. (2015, Sep 22). Healthy Lifestyle: Nutrition and healthy eating. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983?pg=2.
- Reuters. (2014, Feb 5). Most Americans don’t eat enough whole grains, fiber: study. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/most-americans-dont-eat-enough-whole-grains-fiber-study/.
- Wald, Arnold. (2016). Patient education: High-fiber diet (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate. Retrieved from: https://www-uptodate-com.ezproxy.uvm.edu/contents/high-fiber-diet-beyond-the-basics?source=search_result&search=fiber&selectedTitle=1~150.