There are several reasons why fiber is good for us – one of them is extremely obvious, so we won’t spend time exploring that one. What you may not know is just how many other benefits a high-fiber diet can bring. You also may not realize that there’s a very good chance you’re not getting enough of it in your daily diet. In fact, many of us don’t know how much we’re getting at all. Research shows that the average American’s fiber intake is about 14 or 15 grams per day, which is less than half the recommended amount of 25 to 38 grams per day. One estimate even found that less than 5 percent of the population of the United States meets that target daily fiber goal.
“Fiber is an important part of our diets, but it’s also an underappreciated part of our diets,” said Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman. “It’s critical to keeping things moving through the digestive system. Because of that, fiber can help lower your risk for heart disease. It also can lower the levels of bad cholesterol in your body, as well as reduce your risk for colon cancer. People who consume a high-fiber diet also tend to have lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes, or if you have diabetes already, it can help regulate your blood sugar levels. It also reduces your overall calorie intake and it’s been linked to better overall weight management,” she explained.
So, why is it so tough for so many of us to get enough fiber in our diets? “Fiber is, unfortunately, not a very glamorous topic,” Tillman said. “It’s not something a lot of people really want to talk about, but it’s something we all should be getting more of in our daily lives. Fortunately, the foods that tend to be higher in fiber also are higher in other key nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Obviously, there are fiber bars and other supplements that can help you reach that daily fiber goal, but it’s important to look at the natural ways to get more fiber in your diet, too,” she said. “This, of course, means eating more fruits and vegetables,” she added.
Tillman says there are three quick ways in particular that you can instantly add more fiber to your daily routine. “First, try looking for fiber-rich fruits, such as raspberries or pears,” Tillman said. “Just one cup of raspberries equals eight grams of fiber, and one medium-sized pear is about six grams of fiber. As for vegetables, a cup of peas is about seven grams of fiber, while a cup of Brussels sprouts equals about four grams of fiber. A cup of cubed acorn squash will also get you about six grams of fiber,” she said. “Beans, too, are a great way to get more fiber in your diet. Here, you’ll want to look for lentils, garbanzo beans or great northern beans. Each will get you more than a dozen grams of fiber per cup,” she added.
Finally, Tillman says, there are two other ways you can get a healthy amount of fiber in your daily routine. “You may not realize it, but oatmeal is a good way to start your day off with a dose of fiber,” she said. “There are five grams of fiber in every half-cup of dry oatmeal. Also, if you like chia seeds, they’re definitely going to help you reach your daily fiber goal. Just two tablespoons of chia seeds have 11 grams of fiber, so maybe consider adding them to your smoothie or your salad at dinner,” she added.