The Many Health Benefits of Fiber
I really struggle to get enough fiber in my diet. It is a chore for me to get the recommended intake of 14 grams per 1000 calories. This level is about 25 grams for adult women and 30 grams for adult men per day.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, dietary fiber intake in the U.S. continues to be less than recommended, with average consumption near 15 grams per day.
The health benefits of fiber are significant. Four areas were analyzed by the Academy related to fiber and overall health impacts. The areas reviewed include cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal health and disease, weight control and diabetes.
Let’s take a closer look at these areas starting with heart health. Based on current data, fiber intake from whole foods or supplements may lower blood pressure, improve blood fat levels, and reduce inflammation.
Fiber appears to positively impact weight management, too. Current evidence indicates fiber intake from whole foods or supplements can assist with weight loss. Fiber foods have less caloric density compared to foods higher in fat. Foods higher in fiber require the body to work harder at breaking them down. This generally results in increase fullness or satiety. This is why eating a piece of whole fruit always trumps drinking fruit juice.
For diabetes diets providing 30 to 50 grams of fiber per day whole food sources consistently produced lower blood glucose levels compared to a low fiber diet. Fiber supplements such as Metamucil or Konsyl taken at levels of 10 to 29 grams per day may have some benefits with glucose control as well.
Regarding bowel function, current data suggests a lack of evidence when analyzing the impact of fiber from whole foods on outcomes regarding gastrointestinal diseases. The Academy suggests that further research is needed to clarify amounts and fiber types in G. I. health and disease management.
Increased consumption of higher fiber food such as whole grains, whole fruits, fresh vegetables and legumes appears prudent for individuals not meeting their recommended daily fiber needs. Consuming more of these foods would drive the American diet closer to the recommended fiber levels. High fiber foods generally offer less caloric density and are lower in added sugar.
The following is a list of some whole foods and their fiber content. Add these foods slowly and increase in moderation to achieve 25 to 30 grams of daily:
- 1 large pear: 7 grams
- 1 cup fresh berries: 8 grams
- ½ medium avocado: 5 grams
- 1 ounce almonds: 3.5 grams
- ½ cup black beans: 7.5 grams
- 3 cups air popped popcorn: 3.5 grams
By Dale Batz
Registered Dietitian & Nutritionist, Franciscan Midwest Bariatric Institute