Most people aren’t. Most Americans get about 15 grams of fiber daily. In 2002, the US government recommended that the average adult get between 21 and 38 grams each day. These recommendations were based on several large studies that found people who consumed 14 grams of fiber for each 1,000 calories had significantly lower rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Many nutritional experts believe 35-45 grams would be even better. What is fiber? It’s the indigestible portion of plant foods. Most people think of fiber as bulk that helps move the bowels, but there’s much more to know about fiber. There are two kinds of fiber—soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber becomes gelatinous in the intestines. It’s soothing to intestinal walls and helps make bowel movements easier. Studies show it also decreases cholesterol. Insoluble fiber acts like an intestinal broom. Both kinds ease elimination by increasing fecal bulk and making stools softer. Both kinds of fiber absorb and remove toxins, including heavy metals and excess estrogen. Both have been shown to produce a feeling of fullness, so that you tend to eat less. Both delay glucose absorption, helping to moderate blood sugar and insulin levels. And both break down into food that nourishes both the good tummy bugs in our intestines and our intestinal walls. One of the greatest shortcomings of the modern diet is its low fiber content. Sugar, animal proteins and fats, and soft drinks (which are now the single largest contributor of calories in the US diet) have no fiber at all. Cooking, refining and juicing all reduce fiber (although blending drinks in a VitaMix preserves fiber). We get fiber from plant foods: fruits and vegetables, beans and nuts. To estimate how much fiber you’re getting, use this Fiber Sources Handout to add up your daily fiber grams. If you come up short, try adding more cooked beans to your diet. Grinding 3 tablespoons of flaxseed in a coffee grinder, and adding to salads, smoothies or cooked vegetables, will give you about 9 grams of both soluble and insoluble fiber. Or use Beyond Health’s Dietary Fiber Formula. Each serving provides 7 grams of highly beneficial soluble fibers. Aim for 35-40 grams a day; more if you’re dealing with diabetes or trying to lose weight. Be sure to get your 8 glasses of water daily, and start slowly. Add about 5 grams of fiber a day for a week; another 5 grams the following week and so on. It takes time for the gut bacteria to adjust to more fiber. Even with gradual change you may experience some gas, bloating, even cramping or constipation. Soluble fiber is generally soothing, but too much insoluble fiber can irritate an already sensitive gut lining. Get adequate fiber and your body will thank you with the gift of better health. References 1) Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Washington, D. C.: National Academies Press; 2002/2005, p. 339. The actual recommendations are: adult male 38 grams/day, adult female 25 grams/day; 51 years or older, 30 grams/day for men and 21 grams/day for women. 2) Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, Fiber, Intake Recommendations. 3) Vahouny G. Dietary fibers VI: Binding of fatty acids and monolein from mixed micelles containing bile salts and lecithin. Experimental Biology and Medicine. January 1981;166:12-16. 4) Environmental Nutrition. Research News. Drink water, coffee, and tea instead of sugary beverages. April 2012;35(4):3.
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