Guardian Lifestyles Editor
Published: Jul 16, 2013
Medical experts say it all the time, fiber is important to good health — for the health of the digestive system and the lowering of cholesterol. But most people do not get the recommended daily intake. To be honest, the average adult’s intake is approximately only 15 grams of dietary fiber per day, approximately half the recommended amount. The American Heart Association eating plan suggests eating a variety of food fiber sources and recommends that total dietary intake should be between 25 to 30 grams per day from food, not supplements. Currently, the dietary fiber intake among adults average about 15 grams per day, approximately half the recommended amount.
According to a local family medicine practitioner, adequate fiber intake is essential to good health and to prevent medical illnesses in humans.
“Adequate fiber intake decreases in LDL cholesterol levels which decreases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, weight loss, digestion and a decrease in risk for colon cancer represents some of the scientifically proven benefits,” said Dr. Patrick Whitfield.
Dietary fiber is material from plant cells that cannot be broken down by enzymes in the human digestive tract of which there are two important types — water soluble and water insoluble.
Water-soluble fibers absorb water during digestion. They increase stool bulk and may decrease blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber can be found in fruits such as apples, oranges and grapefruit, vegetables, and legumes such as dry beans, lentils and peas, barley, oats and bran.
Water insoluble fibers remain unchanged during digestion. They promote normal movement of intestinal contents. Insoluble fiber can be found in fruits with edible peel or seeds, vegetables, whole grain products such as whole-wheat bread, pasta and crackers, bulgur wheat, stone ground corn meal, cereals, bran, rolled oats, buckwheat and brown rice.
When grocery shopping, Dr. Whitfield said people should always take into account purchasing foods that are dense in fiber.
“Fruit selection is a priority,” said the family medicine practitioner. “A medium apple, banana or orange and one cup of strawberries each provide approximately three to four grams of fiber, and raspberries are especially rich in fiber with eight grams of fiber per cup.”
Dr. Whitfield said when looking to increase your fiber intake, he said people should also look to native fruits as a mango has approximately five grams per fruit, while a cup of guava contains about nine grams.
As for vegetables, he said that generally speaking, the darker the color of the vegetable, the higher the fiber content — and that carrots, beets, avocados and broccoli are rich in fiber. He also cited spinach as a high content vegetable with about 10 grams of fiber in each half cup and that artichokes at 10 grams for a medium sized one are among the highest source of fiber from vegetables.
The doctor encouraged people to consume spuds as well, adding that medium-sized yams, russet potatoes, red potatoes and sweet potatoes all yield approximately three grams of fiber as long as the skin is consumed as well.
According to Dr. Whitfield, fiber can also be had from foods located in the dry and canned good section. He said that beans are rich in fiber with navy beans and white beans the richest. He said that garbanzo, kidney, Lima and pinto beans are also good choices and that people should look to add them to their soups, chili and salads. He said beans are also high in protein and are a good alternative to red meat while legumes including peas, lentils and soybeans are also reasonably high in fiber.
The medical practitioner also encouraged people to look at purchasing cereals that have five or more grams of fiber that he said are also good sources. When shopping he said they should opt to select whole-grain breads like seven grain, dark rye and pumpernickel breads.
He also said that brown rice, wild rice and barley are good substitutions to white rice.
When snacking the doctor said people should also be conscious of their fiber intake, and to look for snacks that are good fiber sources. He encouraged snacking on a handful of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios or almonds which he said have at least three grams of fiber. But he also cautioned that people take note of their portion sizes as nuts are high in cholesterol and if eaten in excess can lead to weight gain.
“When shopping the cold case, always remember that milk and other dairy products and most juices are fairly low in fiber, so look for labels on the orange juice, milk and yogurt that say fiber is added or fiber-fortified,” he encouraged.
“Careful selection of foods that are both tasty and promote health is an important aspect of healthy eating and living” said Dr. Whitfield. “While grocery shopping, remember that fruits, vegetables, nuts and multigrain products are excellent sources of fiber which is capable of preventing medical illnesses.”