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Do You Eat Enough Fiber

New research suggests that the general public in the U.S., Canada, and around the world-which likely includes you-is simply not getting the fiber needed every day for optimal health and well being.  A recent survey determined that fewer than 10 percent of us are consuming the optimal recommended daily amount of fiber.  And, if that doesn't startle you, consider that the average American consumes less than half the suggested amount of fiber daily.

Why is a diet deficient in fiber a problem?  Numerous studies now reveal the potential drawbacks of a diet low in fiber for individuals of all ages. 

Once regarded simply as a way to help with regularity or to aid occasional constipation, the results of study after study force us to rethink the fundamental benefits and value of fiber.  In fact, a high fiber diet may help you maintain your digestive health and regularity-including providing ideal food for your beneficial bacteria, and your heart healthiness. 

A diet rich in fiber
· Can contribute to a sense of fullness, which may prevent over-eating and help you regulate your weight.
· Can promote the growth of your healthy bacteria and the food they need to thrive, which may help enhance your immune system's ability to promote good immune health.  Did you know that 80% of your immune response is in your intestines!
· Can slow your absorption of sugars, which has the potential to promote healthy blood glucose levels.  (Eat a piece of fruit rather than drinking fruit juice, for instance.)
· Can add bulk to your stool as it supports regularity and elimination, effectively "sweeping" clean the walls of your intestines to allow efficient exchange of nutrients and toxins between bowel and bloodstream.
· Can bind to excess cholesterol to remove it from the body, resulting in healthier overall cholesterol levels.

If you don't know how much fiber is the right amount, you're not alone.  A recent survey by the National Fiber Council showed that 88 percent of Americans have no idea how many grams of fiber they need a day or where to get it.  A 2005 national study revealed that over 50% of Americans think steak is high in fiber-but in reality meat has little or no fiber.  The same study discovered that one in five people has no idea how much fiber they eat daily-and nearly 60 percent of all respondents in the survey have never talked with their health care provider about fiber.

So, how much fiber do you need, and where to you get it?

When it comes to fiber, 32 grams per day is the minimum amount for adults.  If you're like most, you're likely only getting 10-15 grams daily.  According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, people on low-carbohydrate diets typically get only seven to eight grams of fiber daily. 

This is likely due in large part to a lack of understanding about the difference between "good" or complex carbs, and "bad" or refined simple carbs.  Drop the simple carbs:  refined white flour products (breads, pastas, pastries) and simple sugars (especially high fructose corn syrup).  Limit natural "white" carbs such as potatoes and rice.  Keep the complex carbs:  colorful whole fruits and vegetables, as close to natural as possible:  raw, steamed or slow-cooked to preserve maximum amounts of nutrition. 

Ideally, your diet will have foods high in soluble and insoluble fiber, which is found almost exclusively in the plant kingdom.  Eat a rainbow every day, including dried beans, peas, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and beets.  Flax seed meal is a simple, tasty way to amp up your fiber intake.  Its mild, sweet, nutty taste can be a topper on your morning oatmeal, baked into whole grain muffins, sprinkled on the green beans, or mixed in the meatloaf.

If all else fails, take a fiber supplement.  Don't let your body fall victim to the lack of sufficient fiber.