If you’re like most adults, you’re not eating enough fiber. The average American adult consumes only about 12 grams of fiber a day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Unfortunately, the 2005 USDA dietary guidelines state that healthy adults should be getting 14 grams of dietary fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. That’s 28 grams of fiber for the average 2,000 calorie diet.
Unless you’ve got a thing for bran flakes, you’re probably eating less than half of the recommended intake for fiber.
1. Fiber promotes regularity by adding bulk to stool and stimulating the rapid movement of waste through the colon. By serving this purpose, fiber can help prevent bowel problems, including constipation, diverticulosis and hemorrhoids.
2. Fiber blocks the absorption of some of the dietary cholesterol and fat you eat, which can lower your numbers and help prevent plaque buildup that can lead to heart attack and stroke.
3. Fiber protects against certain cancers, especially in the colon and rectum. Fiber helps “move things along” in the digestive tract, reducing the amount of time that stool is present in the intestinal tract. The less time it spends there, the less time bacteria have to metabolize it and produce gasses that may act as carcinogens (cancer-causing agents).
4. Fiber can lower fasting blood-sugar levels in diabetics and those at risk for diabetes.
5. Fiber may also help you to achieve that one thing that almost everyone wants –weight loss. Not only does fiber help reduce calories by blocking fat absorption, it also acts as an appetite suppressant. The bulk provided by fiber is calorie-free (need we say more?), and can make you feel full faster and longer than other foods. Controlling appetite is often one of the most difficult aspects of achieving weight loss, which is certainly a big plus for fiber.
Our 2,000 calorie, high-fiber eating plan includes 3 full meals, snacks and even a high-fiber dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth. This will give you a better idea of how to fit high-fiber foods into your day.
Example of a 2,000 Calorie, High-Fiber Diet
Breakfast: 1 cup bran cereal (~9 g fiber) with milk, 1 large banana (4 g fiber) and a cup of yogurt
Total: 36 – 40 g fiber
As you can see from the menu example, aiming for the recommended 25-30 grams of daily fiber is doable! The basic tricks are to start out your day with a high-fiber breakfast cereal and choose raw fruits or vegetables for snacks. Eat more whole wheat grains rather than processed grains, and eat more beans and legumes. And best of all, remember to swap high-calorie desserts with deliciously sweet, high-fiber fruits for a surefire way to cure your sweet tooth without the calories.
The More the Merrier? If you’re new to the fiber scene and want to bump up your fiber intake, just start slow. Going from no fiber to tons of fiber can cause digestive upset and make you very uncomfortable. Start by swapping your morning blueberry muffin for a bran muffin and see how you feel. Then pack an apple for a snack and order lentil soup for lunch the next day. Take it slow, and you’ll feel better than ever.