How To Know If You Are Having Enough Fiber

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Did you know that fiber matters a lot when it comes to being healthy?  Yet, for most of us it’s is almost the last thing that comes to our mind when we think of health.  If you are like most Americans you aren’t getting enough fiber in your diet.  In fact you are highly likely to be quite deficient.

What Are The Daily Fiber Requirements?

On average women need 25 grams of fiber per day, and men need around 38 grams per day. Yet according to the Institute of Medicine the average adult only eats 15 grams of fiber per day.

Needless to say that’s quite a deficiency and it can lead to a host of health problems including:  poor digestive health, cardiovascular disease,  blood sugar issues and weight gain.

Health Problems Due To Lack of Fiber

Most of the health problems which arise due to lack of fiber is actually not entirely due to lack of fiber.  Rather it is due to bad food which raise the blood glucose levels rapidly including pasta, white bread, white rice, pastries and pizzas to cite some examples.

When you take fiber the ill effects of these foods are reduced as fiber does not allows these foods to be digested to fast and in fact absorbing some of them and taking them out of the body before being absorbed.  Hence if you take above foods frequently it is very important to increase your fiber intake.

At the same time increasing fiber intake is not going to harm you even if you eat relatively healthy foods such as nuts (like walnuts, almonds), vegetables such as broccoli and other leafy vegetables such as spinach.

So let us see some of the health issues when your fiber intake is too less.

Poor Digestive Health

When we don’t consume the right amount of fiber we put a strain on our digestive system.

Fiber in particular insoluble fiber plays a significant role in keeping the intestines and colon functioning properly which lessons the risk of various disease including: constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis disease.

It helps regulate bowel movements and research is finding that it may potentially reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Cardiovascular Disease

Elevated levels of cholesterol both total and LDL can lead to a significant increase in the risk of arterial diseases such as strokes and coronary heart disease.  When we don’t consume enough fiber it can contribute to having higher cholesterol levels.  Soluble fiber from foods such as citrus fruits, pears, beans and oats bind with the bad LDL in the intestinal tract and help remove it from the body.  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating 7-13 grams of soluble fiber every day.

Blood Sugar Issues

The American Diet has become a nutritional nightmare. For many of us we exist on low fiber, refined carbohydrates such as white breads not to mention sugary foods.  This causes our blood sugar to spike as the body attempts the handle the onrush of glucose in the blood stream this kind of diet causes. Fiber can slow the absorption of sugar when it is consumed at the same time.  This causes the levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood to remain more stable.  Additionally research is showing that dietary fiber in foods may  help reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Weight Gain

reading fiber in nutrition labelsAs we’ve mentioned the American diet lacks in fiber and contains a lot of highly refined carbohydrates.  This causes our blood sugar to rise and then inevitably comes the crash. A good example of this…  Did you ever go to a Chinese restaurant and two hours later feel like your starving?

And what do most of us do when that happens?  Reach for more processed carbohydrates.

Fiber helps prevent that from happening as it makes us feel fuller longer and as mentioned before reduces the blood sugar spikes. This in turn helps lesson the tendency to overeat.

Additionally, high fiber foods generally take us longer to chew, and are slower to digest, keeping the stomach and brain feeling full.

Know Your Numbers

Did you ever wonder how much fiber do you eat each day?

Here’s a quick easy way to get a good estimate if you are consuming enough fiber.

Grab a pen and paper and tally up what you’ve eaten today.

Beans, one half cup (7); vegetables, one cup (4); salad, one cup (2); fruit, one piece (3); fruit juice, one cup (1); white bread (1); whole grain bread (2); white rice, one cup (1); brown rice, one cup (3); intact oatmeal, one cup (4); meat, poultry or fish (0); eggs or dairy (0); sodas or water (0).

If you scored less than 20:

You likely need more fiber in your diet. Boosting your fiber will control your appetite and cut your risk for many other health problems.  In case you number is less than 20 consistently you pretty much need some fiber supplements such as metamucil, or fiber choice.

If you scored 20-39

You consume more fiber than most people, but adding more fiber to your diet will continue to make foods more satisfying and cut your calorie intake.

If you scored 40 or more

Congratulations, you are getting plenty of healthy fiber in your diet. An added bonus for you is a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and digestive problems!

Dan Romand is co-owner and operator of Full Circle Fitness-NY in Colonie, where he also is a certified personal trainer. You can read his Health & Fitness column here and online at TheSpot518.

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