Q: I keep hearing that Americans don’t get enough fiber. Is that true or just the latest diet hype?
A: This is one rumor that’s absolutely true.
Women under 50 need 25 grams of fiber per day, while men need 38 grams. Over age 50, those numbers drop to 21 and 30 grams, respectively, because adults over 50 should consume fewer calories overall. Children need about 15 to 20 grams per day, depending upon the number of calories they consume.
A good general guideline is about 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories.
Q: Why is fiber so important, anyway?
A: Fiber has many health benefits. Fiber helps digestion by keeping your bowels moving regularly, which also staves off diverticular disease. Beyond that, studies show that a diet rich in fiber can reduce the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. It also helps lower bad cholesterol. Fiber may also help with weight loss because it provides a sense of fullness.
Q: What’s the best way for me to get more fiber in my diet?
A: While there are fiber supplements out there, you’re better off getting your fiber from food sources like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes and lentils. Sweet potatoes, flax seed and nuts also have a lot of fiber.
Q: Anything else should I know about fiber?
A: Don’t increase your intake too quickly. Doing so can cause a host of unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms. Aim for a slight increase of about 5 grams per day until you reach the recommended amount for your age.