Fiber foods

Americans need to eat more fiber-rich foods, researchers say

Less than 10% of American adults eat enough fiber-rich foods, researchers warn, which could increase their risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Dietary fiber is mainly found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. It is often called roughage because it includes the parts of plant foods that the body cannot digest. Instead of being broken down and absorbed by the body, it passes mostly intact through the stomach, small intestine, and colon before leaving the body.

Fiber is often categorized as soluble, which means it dissolves in water, or insoluble, which means it just leaves the body. Soluble fiber, according to Mayo Clinic, forms a gel-like material when dissolved in water. Insoluble fiber aids the digestion process and adds bulk to the stool by softening it.

Foods with soluble fiber include oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, and psyllium. Insoluble fiber is found in whole wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, and vegetables like cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes.

Both types of fiber offer important health benefits, but according to this latest study, they are lacking in the diets of many Americans.

Researchers at Texas Woman’s University analyzed data submitted by more than 14,600 American adults who responded to a national health survey between 2013 and 2018. Overall, only 9% of women and 5% of men received the recommended daily amount of fiber.

Survey participants also self-reported their diabetes status, which was verified by their hemoglobin A1c levels. The use of fiber supplements was not included in the analysis.

Derek Miketinas, assistant professor at Texas Woman’s University, noted that the results of their study should serve as a reminder to choose to eat more fiber-rich foods. This is especially important for people with diabetes, he added, as they are already at higher risk for heart disease.

The Institute of Medicine recommends 38 grams of fiber per day for men age 50 or younger and 30 grams for men age 51 or older. Women should consume 25 grams per day if they are 50 or younger and 21 grams if they are 51 or older.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 10 to 15 grams of total daily fiber should come from soluble fiber.

Physical and Mental Benefits of a High Fiber Diet

Dietary fiber offers many physical benefits, including preventing and improving constipation, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing the risk of chronic disease. According to Cleveland Clinic, in addition to reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease, a diet high in fiber may also reduce the risk of certain types of cancers. It has also been proven to reduce blood pressure and inflammation.

Some research has also suggested that it may also improve mental health. Researchers have found associations between depression, inflammation and dietary fiber in several studies. Lifestyle interventions, including diet, are known to reduce depression.

A study by the North American Menopause Society found that a high intake of dietary fiber may reduce the risk of depression, especially in premenopausal women. Estrogen depletion may play a role in the lack of protective effect in postmenopausal women, say the researchers of this study.

Miketinas said their latest findings can help scientists better understand the relationships between dietary fiber intake and important health markers, including risk factors for heart and kidney disease.

How to get more fiber in your diet

Nutritionists always say to strive to eat the rainbow daily. It simply means eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes every day. And make a conscious choice to avoid refined processed foods like canned fruits and vegetables, white breads and pastas, and non-whole grains. All of these are lower in fiber.

The preliminary results of the study were presented at an online meeting of the American Society for Nutrition.