Are you getting enough fiber?

Most people in the US eat only about two servings of fruits or vegetables each day which is below the recommended amount. Breads and cereals are a form of complex carbohydrates however you don’t always know if they are made with whole grains. By looking at the ingredient lists you can see if it is listed as whole wheat flour or just wheat flour. Wheat flour can be highly refined with the bran and other fiber rich portions removed, whereas whole wheat flour is made from whole grains.

The Adequate intake for fiber is 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. Most people in the US eat only 12 to 18 grams of fiber each day getting only half of the fiber they need. Even though fiber supplements are out there, it is best to get fiber from food directly because they contain additional nutrients. Eating the amounts of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes that are recommended in the USDA food guide will ensure that you get enough fiber. It’s also important to drink enough fluid as you increase your fiber intake to soften stools. Inadequate intake of fluids as you increase your fiber intake can result in hard, dry stools to make it difficult to pass through the colon. At least eight 8 ounce glasses a day are recommended.

Quick tips for getting enough fiber

  • Select breads and cereals made with whole grains such as wheat, oats, barley, and rye. Make sure the label says whole before the word grain. Choose foods with at least 2 or 3 grams of fiber per serving
  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Eat fruits with the skin left on because fiber is mostly found in the skin
  • Frozen vegetables and fruits can be a healthful alternative when fresh products are not available.
  • Be careful when buying canned fruits and vegetables because many are high in sodium and added sugar. Foods that are packed in their own juice are more healthful than those packed in syrups.
  • Eat legumes every day if possible. Canned or fresh beans, peas and lentils are excellent sources of fiber rich carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Adding these to soups, casseroles and other recipes are good way to eat more of them.

Source: Thompson, Janice, Melinda Manore, and Linda A. Vaughan. The Science of Nutrition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2011. Print.

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