What is fiber?
Dietary fiber is an important source of nutrition for many gut bacteria. Fiber is found in plant foods, like grains, fruits & vegetables, legumes, and nuts & seeds. Our bodies can’t break down fiber, but gut bacteria can. Fiber provides fuel for many bacteria, so they can grow, function and support our health.
How much fiber do I need?
Depending on your age, gender, and calorie intake, the Dietary Recommended Intake for fiber is between 25-38 grams per day. The Percent Daily Value on the nutrition facts panel is based on 28 grams per day. In the US, 95% of Americans do not meet their daily dietary fiber recommendations.
How do you boost fiber intake?
Choose foods. Get fiber from nutritious foods such as cereals, snack bars, breads, beans, nuts, veggies and fruits. Be sure to check the Nutrition Facts panel for at least 10% Daily Value of dietary fiber to ensure it’s a good source.
Sprinkle and mix it. Use a fiber-containing cereal to top a salad; sprinkle over casseroles, roasted veggies, or baked fruit dessert; stir into soups and stews; or add to a smoothie.
Go slow. Increase your fiber intake gradually to avoid discomfort such as gas and bloating.
Don’t forget fluids. Drink plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day.
Does whole grain equal fiber?
We often hear a lot about the benefits of whole grains. As beneficial as they can be, it's important to select foods with whole grains that are also a good source of fiber. Whole grains can vary in their fiber content.
So how do you know you're getting the most from your whole grains? Be sure to flip the package to check the Nutrition Facts Panel to determine if a whole grain is listed in the ingredient statement, and how much dietary fiber it contains.
Can shrinking the fiber deficit help shrink healthcare costs?
Physician visits for occasional irregularity and other digestive issues experienced by Americans has grown considerably in the last 20 years, contributing to an increase in health care costs. Could part of the solution may be as simple as getting more fiber into our daily diets?
A health economic study on occasional irregularity shows a potential health care savings of $12.7 billion per year if U.S. adults would increase their dietary fiber to about 25 grams, the minimum level recommended by health experts for adults.1 Overall, 95% of Americans don’t meet their daily dietary fiber recommendations. For kids, aged 2-18 years, that number is even higher at about 97%.
The study, carried out by an independent group of researchers in nutritional sciences, epidemiology, and health economics from Exponent, Inc. Health Sciences and commissioned by Kellogg Company, evaluated the direct medical costs associated with occasional irregularity problems among adults in the U.S. The research team, developed a model to determine the potential money that could be saved through preventive, lifestyle-related measures, in this case, increasing dietary fiber intake.
Another finding of the study concluded that even if only half of the U.S. population increased their dietary fiber intake by just three grams a day there could still be more than $2 billion in health care cost savings.
“With the rising cost of health care, this research highlights the importance of simple, realistic changes that we can make to our diet. Something as simple as eating more fiber, which could contribute to significant health care savings,” said Dominik Alexander, Ph.D., MSPH, a principal epidemiologist, who managed the research team conducting the study.1
Making these changes part of everyday eating patterns, including having a fiber-containing cereal at breakfast with a banana, swapping white bread and pastas for their whole wheat versions and having a fiber-containing snack bar can help drive fiber consumption closer to recommended intakes.
Who knew that reducing the fiber deficit might also help to shrink healthcare costs?
1. Shmier, JK - Cost savings of reduced constipation rates attributed to increased dietary fiber intakes: a decision-analytic model. BCM Public Health, 2014.