We find ourselves saying this a lot, but…pardon the pun. We’re just so happy that it’s National Fiber Focus Month! Who knew, right? We’d like to think we stay up to date, but this was news to us. Coincidental, since we were planning to post about fiber.
We find fiber to be an often-mentioned topic among those concerned with health, but also hear confusing facts tossed around. To celebrate National Fiber Focus Month, let’s set the record straight.
Fiber falls under the umbrella of carbohydrates, hence its placement on the food label. It’s not a nutrient and is not digested by the body, yet provides healthful benefits including reducing disease risk, providing satiety and maintaining bowel regularity.
Fiber is often referred to as soluble or insoluble, which describes it’s ability to dissolve in water (soluble), or not (insoluble). Soluble fiber is found in oatmeal, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds. Insoluble fiber is present primarily in whole grains and vegetables. Including both in a varied eating plan packs an excellent nutritional punch.
Many Americans fall short of their daily fiber recommendation, and it takes effort to include fiber sources daily, even in a culture heavily focused on counting calories and grams. A general rule of thumb is to aim for 25 – 30 grams per day. If that seems a tall order, it is!
In more specific terms, The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends:
38 grams/day for adult men (age 14 – 50)
30 grams/day for older adult men (51 +)
25 grams/day for adult women (19 – 50)
21 grams/day for older adult women (51 +)
The higher recommendation for men is due to their typically higher caloric needs.
Fiber remains an important aspect of a child’s eating pattern as well, though the recommended intake is slightly lower than for adults – 19 grams/day for children ages 1 – 3, and 25 grams/day for older children 4 – 8. Those may seem like high recommendations for children, and incorporating good sources of fiber may be even more of a challenge given the often erratic eating of many youngsters.
As with implementing other dietary changes, consider a family approach that is gradual. It doesn’t take long to notice the side effects of increasing fiber too quickly, nor is overhauling your current eating pattern a helpful strategy. Start with what’s already working, and build from there. Try new varieties of whole grains – cereal, crackers, bread, rice, pasta. Include beans more often – think Meatless Monday – and consider vegetarian options that combine beans with whole grains for a double whammy. Focus on the whole fruit rather than juice, and yes, the skin counts! Move beyond salads and get more mileage with your veggies – pile them on your sandwich, combine with nuts at snack time, or toss them with pasta.
Our favorite ways to include more fiber:
Stacey – spinach pesto; a few dried plums (aka prunes); Kashi GoLean in snack mix with almonds, walnuts and a few chocolate chips
Samantha – shredded wheat at breakfast; sunflower seed kernels as a salad topping