When you think of an enticing meal, what do you imagine? Flank steak and roasted red skin potatoes? Or broasted chicken and creamed-corn? Now envision a meal composed mainly of naturally fiber-rich foods. Are you picturing a meal that would be considered a temptation to the palate? My guess for a great number of individuals the answer is no. For many, the suggestion of increasing daily fiber intake triggers boring thoughts of eating a bowl full of tasteless bran flakes – not a very exciting proposition to some. Perhaps that, along with the gastrointestinal discomfort that can be associated with consuming too much fiber or increasing its intake too quickly, can explain why many of us consume less than half of the recommended daily amount.
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies suggests that adults ages 50 years and younger consume 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams of fiber per day for men. Women and men over the age of 50 years should eat 21 and 30 grams of fiber per day, respectively, as a result of eating fewer total calories. A general goal for adults is to try to consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories ingested daily.
What are the recommendations for fiber intake of children?
- 1-3 years = 19 grams/day
- 4-8 years = 25 grams/day
- 9-13 years = 26 grams/day for females, 31 grams/day for males
- 14-18 = 26 grams/day for females, 38 grams/day for males
- According to some sources, a general rule of thumb for calculating your child’s daily fiber intake is to add 5 to his or her age in years. For example, a 6 year-old would need about 11 grams of fiber per day.
Fiber can be classified as either soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, whereas insoluble fiber does not. Foods rich in soluble fiber include oat bran, brown rice, barley, and certain fruits (e.g., plums) and vegetables (e.g., broccoli). Whole- grain cereals and breads, wheat and corn bran, nuts, and seeds are examples of sources rich in insoluble fiber.
Adding fiber-rich foods to your diet offers many health benefits. These include:
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Reduced risk for heart disease
- Better blood sugar control in diabetics
- Improved digestive tract health
- Decreased risk for certain cancers (e.g., colon)
- Weight management
How can you tell what is a good source of fiber? According to the National Fiber Council, foods that offer more than 5 grams of fiber per serving are considered to be high-fiber sources. Those that contribute 2.5-4.9 grams of fiber per serving are classified as a good source. Products that claim to have added fiber should provide at least 2.5 grams more fiber beyond what would be traditionally present in the food.
To make your transition to a high-fiber diet more tolerable, follow these tips:
- Gradually increase your fiber intake – adding too much too soon can lead to symptoms of bloating, cramping, and flatulence.
- Increase fluid intake, particularly water, to avoid constipation (fiber absorbs water from your gastrointestinal tract).
A fiber-rich diet does not have to lack flavor. Some suggestions to boost your family’s fiber intake include:
- Toast slices of whole-grain bread and top with mashed banana.
- Turn your cottage cheese into a parfait by alternating layers of it with dried fruit and nuts.
- Add whole-oats to your favorite baked good recipe.
- Add a small can of pureed pumpkin or sweet potato to a recipe for homemade mac and cheese.
How do you boost your family’s fiber intake? Share with us, we want to know!