How Much Fiber Do We Need and What Foods Can We Get It From?
As I discussed earlier in my hub Why Is a High Fiber Diet So Important? we talked about why our bodies need fiber, particularly a high fiber diet. Today we will discuss how much fiber we need and the best places to get it from.
According to the American Dietetic Association the requirements for fiber intake differ. Women need 25 grams and men need 38 grams. Once you are 50 though, your requirements drop. Women then need 21 grams and men need 30 grams. There are many ways to get enough fiber in your diet without resorting to the expensive food items that are labeled "high in fiber" at the grocery store. Yes fiber is good for us, but I don't believe most people need to eat it in excess.
The best way to get enough fiber in your diet is to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The ADA website says we can get all the fiber we need by eating 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables a day along with whole grains. The closer a food is to its original form the more fiber it will have. Take juice for example. Most juices have been stripped of their fiber so that they are easier to digest. A better option is to eat a piece of fruit, with the skin still on.
I know it is virtually impossible to go pick fresh grains out of the field and eat them, so for whole grains you need to think differently. The less processed the better. If you eat white bread, crackers or rice you are eating foods that have been almost completely stripped of all nutrients. These foods are not only stripped of the nutrients but they are bleached to make them white. The darker the bread, cracker or rice product the less processed it is. This means that most of the fiber in that food is still there for your body to use.
There are many, many products sold in grocery stores that advertise being "high in fiber". I believe that is a relative term and differs from company to company. If you really want to purchase a product that is high in fiber you need to read the ingredients and the label, keeping in mind how many grams of fiber your body needs each day. I like to purchase cereal, bread and crackers that have "whole grains" listed as the first ingredient. This means that the largest ingredient in that product is whole grains.
Here are some of the highest fiber foods and how many grams of fiber are in each.
- Raspberries - 8 grams/cup
- Pear with skin - 5.5 grams/medium pear
- Apple with skin - 4.4 grams/medium apple
- Spaghetti (whole wheat, cooked) - 6.2 grams/cup
- Barley (pearled, cooked) - 6 grams/cup
- Bran Flakes - 5.3/.75 cup
- Split Peas - 16.3 grams/cup
- Lentils - 15.6 grams/cup
- Black Beans - 15 grams/cup
- Lima Beans - 13.2 grams/cup
- Almonds - 3.5 grams/ounce
- Artichoke - 10.3 grams/medium artichoke
- Peas - 8.8 grams/cup
- Broccoli - 5.1 grams/cup
As you can see legumes and raspberries have the most fiber, by a lot. I have never been much of a bean person, but I think I need to start eating them more. For a more complete list of foods and fiber amounts you can look here. As long as you eat a wide variety of foods with plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes then you should not have any trouble getting enough fiber in your diet to stay healthy.