Fiber is an important part of your diet. It can help keep your weight in check , digestion regular, control your cholesterol, decrease your risk of heart disease, reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, and even prevent certain types of cancer.
How Much Fiber Do You Need?
In general, adult men up to age 50 should aim to consume at least 38 grams of dietary fiber each day; for women up to age 50, it’s at least 25 grams of fiber daily. After age 50, fiber needs decrease slightly.
Unfortunately most people don't meet these recommendations. In fact, on average, Americans consume only 14 grams of fiber per day.
Your individual daily fiber intake goal is really based on your calorie consumption. It is recommended that you get 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat. So, for example, if you eat 2,500 calories a day diet, you should be getting about 35 grams of fiber a day.
Tips for Boosting Your Fiber Intake
According to Sari Greaves, RDN, Step Ahead Wellness Center's nutrition director and former national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, there are a number of ways you can increase the amount of fiber in your diet, and at the same time fill up on disease-fighting antioxidants.
- Have vegetable-based meals. "Add vegetables to sandwiches, pizza, and pasta," Sari suggests. When you’re filling up your plate, first load half with non-starchy vegetables, then one-fourth with starch, such as breads, potatoes, or starchy vegetables such as corn, peas, and squash, and the last one-fourth with lean protein, like fish, skinless poultry, and lean meats.
- Choose whole-wheat flour products. Whole grains consist of three layers: the outer bran, the middle endosperm, and the inner germ. Refined grains like white flour, on the other hand, are stripped of the fiber-rich bran and germ layers, leaving only the starchy endosperm. When you choose brown rice instead of white rice and whole-grain breads and crackers instead of white or processed ones, you are boosting the amount of fiber in your diet. To determine if a packaged food is whole-grain, look for the word "whole," as in whole wheat, on the ingredient list, which means that all of the grain layers are still intact.
- Skip the juice. Fruit juice doesn't contain as much fiber as whole fruits. Your best bet is to choose fruits that contain edible seeds, such as kiwi, blueberries, raspberries, and figs, Sari says.
- Eat more beans. Sari recommends that you incorporate more fiber-rich beans into your diet by eating bean-based soups, adding black beans or peas to your salad, or stirring kidney beans into your chili. It is best to eat fresh or frozen beans, but if you eat the canned variety, look for labels that say "no salt added" or rinse them before you eat them, since canned beans tend to be higher in sodium.
- Snack on high-fiber foods. Turn to high-fiber foods anytime you reach for a snack. Sari suggests snacking on baby carrots, celery, and sliced cucumbers dipped in hummus; microwaved frozen edamame (soy beans); or dried fruit mixed with fat-free popcorn, nuts, and seeds.
- Keep the skins on. Eating potatoes with the skin is a great way to increase your fiber intake.
When you first begin incorporating more fiber into your diet, it is not uncommon to experience abdominal cramping, bloating, and gas. You can help prevent this discomfort by making these changes gradually and increasing the amount of liquids you drink along with your fiber intake.
Make your new year's health resolutions come true. Click below to learn about Step Ahead Wellness Center's personalized weight loss programs created by a medical doctor, registered dietitian, and certified personal trainer.
Dr. Deborah Neiman MD, Sari Greaves, RDN & Noelle Lusardi, CPT
49 U.S. Highway 202 Far Hills, NJ 07931 908-470-2235