It’s a bit of a paradox. A study released by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) indicates that fiber is one of the most sought-after food components on the market, but Americans still get only about half the amount of fiber that they should consume daily. Interestingly, fiber wasn’t the only popular food component mentioned. Vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, B vitamins and calcium; antioxidants, protein, probiotics, omega-3s and whole grains made it, too. And the foods Americans look to most for supporting their health? Fruits and vegetables (which are typically fiber-rich), fish and fish oils, dairy, whole grains (fiber-rich) and herbs and spices.
In short, there’s a trend among Americans indicating that they want to wisely select their foods. They’re not only looking to avoid unhealthy components like trans fats, but they’re also showing preference for food elements that pack a health wallop, including what fiber can do. While this is a positive sign, unfortunately, there’s still a gap in the amount of fiber we should consume a day and the amount that most of us actually do consume. The truth is that people get only 18g to 20g of fiber a day, when they should be getting about 35g to 40g.
It’s unfortunate, too, because fiber really is the staff of life. In fact, delicious foods like fresh raw vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds contain healthy fiber and offer numerous health benefits. Not only are they fiber-rich, but they also can create a hospitable environment for friendly bacteria and serve to normalize the time it takes food to pass through the digestive tract. Additionally, fiber helps move foods’ nutrients through the digestive system so that your body can be properly nourished.
Keeping things moving along is important for other reasons, too. Fiber helps support intestinal tract health by increasing stool bulk and ousting unwanted intestinal inhabitants. Getting enough roughage also helps ensure that the unhealthy remnants of undigested foods don’t remain where they shouldn’t be—in the intestinal walls, tissues, organs, arteries or other places in the body. (No one wants that clinging to their insides!)
And remember, when it comes to fiber, you need two types—soluble and insoluble—both of which glean healthy outcomes. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and supports healthy blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Good sources of soluble fiber include beans and other legumes, apples, pears, oat bran and many vegetables and other fruits. Insoluble fiber remains mostly undigested and contributes to better digestion, sweeps the bowels clean, fosters regularity and supports overall bowel health. You can find insoluble fiber in nuts, seeds, brown rice and the outer portions of vegetables and fruits.
Adding fiber-rich foods to your diet is one way to ensure getting enough roughage, but some folks prefer the convenience of fiber supplements. If you’re among those who opt for a fiber supplement, then choose wisely, just like you would select your food. For example, you’ll want to know that psyllium husks can irritate the intestines and the villi, which line the intestine and are important in nutrient absorption. In fact, psyllium husks can damage the villi and interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Likewise, psyllium, while a fiber, can remove toxins and valuable nutrients when it is used. Getting rid of toxins is good, but losing out on nutrition is not.
One thing’s for sure, though. Americans simply aren’t getting enough fiber even though their intentions are good. That’s why it may be time to start roughing it by boosting your fiber intake.