Now I know some of you are already thinking, “Fiber?! That’s for older and/or constipated people!” That is what I was led to believe, too. If the truth be known, due to our Standard American Diet (SAD) many of us are not getting the adequate fiber that we need. I find it funny that the mnemonic for our diet is ‘SAD’ because that is exactly what our nutritional value is in the foods that we consume on a daily basis. What if I told you that eating an adequate amount of fiber can lower your risk of digestive disorders (including constipation), heart disease, diabetes and obesity?
The number one thing that people think about when you mention fiber is constipation, and yes fiber does help with constipation. Fiber increases the bulk of stool and keeps your digestive system ‘moving’.
Having a healthy digestive system also lowers your risk of:
• Colon cancer
The number one killer of women is heart disease. This used to be thought of as a man’s problem, but with increased awareness campaigns I think women finally understand that this is a serious concern. The number one way that fiber helps with the risk of heart disease is by lowering cholesterol levels.
Adequate fiber intake can:
• Reduce your bad cholesterol (LDL)
• Reduce the absorption of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Type 2 Diabetes is becoming an epidemic in our country. Fiber can help with those currently battling this disease as well as help others reduce their risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
Soluble fiber can:
• Slow down the absorption of sugar in the body
• Improve overall blood sugar levels
Obesity exists with some a prevalence that all of us know someone that is either overweight or obese. Think about that for a minute. I remember as a child thinking that a man with a slight beer belly was fat, and had never even seen an obese person. Things have changed, and not for the good.
Fiber rich foods typically:
- Require more chewing, which results in slower eating
- Have fewer calories for the same volume of not-so-healthy foods
- Give you a feeling of satiety (satisfaction) for longer, which results in eating less
If you must ‘count’ things in your daily diet, be sure that fiber is one of them. The Daily Reference Intake, formally known as the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), suggests that people consume 25-38 grams per day. The estimate is that Americans might be getting about half that. Since many people consume various amounts of calories and tend to ‘count’ them, a better measurement may be 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. Therefore, a person that consumes 2,000 calories per day needs about 28 grams of fiber.
Various ways to increase fiber intake:
- Switch to whole-grain products
- Add more fruits and vegetables each day
- Dietary supplement
If you are currently following the SAD diet, be sure that you introduce fiber gradually. If you go from eating 10 grams per day to trying to get in your required 28 grams overnight, your digestive system will not be happy. In order to prevent stomach and digestive upset, just change one thing at a time. Maybe your first step will be to switch from white bread to wheat bread or regular pasta to whole wheat pasta. Be sure that you are reading the labels, because some ‘whole wheat products’ are simply ‘white products’ with a tan.
If you would like more information on either fiber supplements or daily fiber requirements, please look at these other articles.
Top 10 Benefits of Taking a Fiber Supplement
How Much Fiber Do I Need?