Did you know an estimated 95 percent of American adults and children do not consume the recommended amount of daily fiber?
On average, adults in the United States consume just 10-15 grams of fiber a day – 50 percent less than the recommended daily intake. Why is this problematic? Fiber provides many important health benefits. Published research shows those who consume the recommended daily intake of fiber decrease their risk of dying prematurely from a cardiovascular condition by 15-30%. In addition, consuming foods rich in fiber is correlated with a 16-24% lower incidence of stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and heart disease.
Fiber also helps keep our bodies functioning optimally. Foods rich in fiber require more chewing and are not completely broken down in the digestive tract. As a result, fiber-rich foods tend to increase satiety without adding calories, thereby helping with weight control. Fiber can help slow the absorption of sugar and prevent blood sugar spikes after meals. Fiber also helps speed up the elimination of toxic waste through the colon, preventing constipation while reducing the risk of developing hemorrhoids and colitis.
Current research recommends individuals consume between 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily in order to achieve these health benefits. Optimal fiber intake varies with age and health goals, so how much fiber should you have per day? Here are some general recommendations from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
Adult women under the age of 50 — 25 grams per day
Adult men under the age of 50 — 38 grams per day
Women over the age of 50 — 21 grams per day
Men over the age of 50 — 30 grams per day
Eating more than 30 grams of fiber per day may yield additional health benefits, but you typically do not want to exceed 70 grams. Eating more than 70 grams a day could cause unpleasant symptoms, which even happens to some people after 40 to 45 grams. You have consumed too much fiber when you experience minor gastrointestinal side effects, such as bloating or gas. These symptoms often are a reaction to a sudden increase in fiber intake and go away over time. Other symptoms of excess fiber consumption can include constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, mineral deficits, dehydration, acid reflux and, in rare cases, intestinal blockage.
Fiber supplements such as Metamucil, FiberCon, Psyllium Husk, and Citrucel can be helpful for some, however it is easy to over consume fiber with these supplements and these products do not provide the same amount of vitamins and nutrients as natural whole foods.
When adding fiber to your diet, keep in mind, there are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. It is important to consume a mix of both.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. As it moves through the digestive tract it changes and becomes more gelatinous. Soluble fiber is fermented by bacteria and is considered a pre-biotic. Good sources of soluble fiber include kidney beans, pinto beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, apples, oranges, grapefruit, grapes, prunes, nuts, seeds, oatmeal, flax seeds, flax seed powder and whole-wheat bread.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, so this type of fiber does not change its form as it goes through the digestive track. Insoluble fiber can also be fermented by bacteria in the colon as a pre-biotic. It functions to move bulk through the digestive track and control the pH levels in the intestines, helping prevent constipation. Food sources of insoluble fiber include vegetables — especially dark green leafy ones, root vegetable skins, fruit skins, whole-wheat products, wheat bran, wheat germ, brown rice, nuts and seeds.
Go slow when increasing your fiber intake to prevent unwanted side effects, and always make sure to consume plenty of water when eating high-fiber foods. Also, keep in mind that eating a high-fiber diet can interfere with the absorption and effectiveness of certain medications, so talk to your doctor about which medications to take with caution and when to take them.
Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.