Sound the fiber optic alarm! Most of us need more of it in our diets

By American Heart Association News
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY 27 Jan. 2022 (American Heart Association News) — There are many health factors to keep in mind as we navigate Diet Day: calories, carbohydrates, protein, saturated fat, vitamins and minerals, just to name a few.

Did you forget fiber? A lot of people do that.

“We know this forever and it needs to be rediscovered over and over again,” said Joanne Slavin, a professor of nutritional science and nutrition at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “Fiber is really good medicine. It’s the one thing we want people to eat more of.”

For decades, that message has been preached by dietitians, headlines in health magazines, and inscribed on packages of grains, many other foods, and nutritional supplements.

Still, studies show that many people in the United States fall far short of the fiber intake they need. In an alarming example, a 2017 analysis in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine concluded that 95% of adults and children are not consuming the amount of fiber recommended for good health.

Those recommendations vary by age and gender, but Slavin said the average is about 28 grams of fiber per day, “and the average intake is only about 14 grams. So for most people, there’s a 14-gram gap.”

Fiber is the material in plant foods that cannot be broken down and passes through the system undigested. It is most commonly found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and grains. Why is it important? Let’s count the ways.

Fiber has been shown to help protect against heart disease, diabetes, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, obesity and colorectal cancer. Fiber can help flush toxins from the body, lower cholesterol and promote weight loss because it helps people feel fuller while taking in fewer calories.

But when people eat on the run, skimp on fruits and vegetables, and snack on processed foods, “you don’t have many good sources of fiber,” said Judith Wylie-Rosett, a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City who specializes in the links between diet and disease. “The obesity epidemic is concrete evidence that we are not making as much progress as we need to.”

There are many ways to include more fiber in our diet. One pitfall, Wylie-Rosett said, is to feel overwhelmed by the challenge and pack too much too soon.

“Some people suddenly decide to increase their fiber intake all at once and get side effects, such as flatulence and bloating,” she said. “So they stopped.”

Instead, Slavin and Wylie-Rosett recommend incremental changes towards a more fiber-friendly diet. Here are a few tips:

Choose breads, pastas and cereals made from whole grains, as well as brown rice. Eat fruits like apples and oranges instead of drinking the juice. Berries with seeds, such as strawberries, raspberries and blackberries, are good sources of fiber, as are avocados. Add vegetables to every meal and use vegetables and legumes – especially beans, peas and lentils – in everyday recipes. Then snack on nuts, fruit, and low-calorie popcorn.

Slavin has been giving this kind of advice for years – and watching people ignore it. “It’s hard to make fiber exciting,” she said. “As dieticians, we’d rather you eat a good diet and get all servings of fruits and vegetables, but we also understand that the average person doesn’t get there. So we need to meet them where they are.”

Slavin sees a growing trend to add fiber to foods you might not expect, from drinks to snacks to candy gummies.

“If you want a cookie, have an oatmeal cookie,” she said. “It doesn’t take large amounts of fiber to have a real effect. Everyone, even the fast food industry, has to be part of the solution. There’s a lot of room to get fiber in your diet that you can tolerate, and it’s very important. “

American Heart Association News covers heart and brain health. Not all opinions expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright is owned or owned by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. If you have any questions or comments about this story, please email [email protected]

By Michael Precker

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