‘Drink this smoothie and get 30 grams of protein.’ That is a common example of what we see on packaging or hear on advertisements to promote the need to consume more protein. We are inundated with advertisements like we must be deficient. As Dr. Michael Greger states in scientific peer reviewed research, 97% of Americans consume enough protein and far greater as the average person gets more than 70% above the daily recommended amounts. The 3% not getting enough protein come from those being on strict calorie deficient restriction. In essence if we eat enough calories per day, we don’t have to worry about how much protein we are taking in.
On the flip side is fiber where we find 97% of Americans deficient. I can’t remember seeing an advertisement focusing on drinking a smoothie or eating another product to boost fiber intake yet this is a major problem in the U.S. Dr. Greger also goes on to share the research stating on average Americans consume less than 15 grams of fiber per day while the average minimum being 31.5. That means we are taking in less than half of what we should on a daily basis.
By being deficient in fiber it increases the risk of:
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Chronic Illness
- High Cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure
- High Glucose
What is Fiber?
I like the definition used to explain fiber from Medicine Net, “the parts of fruits and vegetables that cannot be digested. Fiber is of vital importance to digestion; it helps the body move food through the digestive tract, reduces serum cholesterol, and contributes to disease protection. Also known as bulk and roughage.”
As noted in the definition it states fiber comes from fruits and vegetables. There is zero fiber coming from any animal product (meat, dairy, or eggs). Dr. Greger also cited the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, “Americans should increase their consumption of beans and peas, other vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and other foods with naturally occurring dietary fiber.” The statistics are staggering – 96% of Americans are not consuming enough beans, 99% not getting enough whole grains, 80% not eating enough fruits and 96% not taking in enough vegetables – there goes the problem.
How Much Fiber Should I Take-In Per Day?
As mentioned earlier the average minimum should be 31.5 grams of fiber per day. That number is inclusive regardless of age or gender. The USDA guidelines are as follows – an adequate intake for total fiber, is set at 38 and 25 gram (g) per day for young men (age 14-50 years) and women (age 19-50 years), respectively. For other age groups and much more nutritional data from the USDA, click on this link to the Daily Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations.
Fiber Rich Foods
This can be really easy to do – Eat more plant-based food. If you eat enough you will never have to track your fiber intake. I track my calories, protein and fiber periodically just to get a gauge where I am on the spectrum. Eating a plant-based diet I easily surpass my protein and fiber minimums while easily doubling the fiber guideline. Linked here is a list of Food Sources Ranked by Amounts of Dietary Fiber and Energy per Standard Food Portions and per 100 Grams of Foods from the USDA.
Some of the fiber rich foods I eat often include:
- Whole Grains – brown rice, quinoa
- Vegetables – spinach, peas, asparagus, kale
- Fruit – bananas, oranges, apples, strawberries, blueberries
- Legumes – black beans, chickpeas
- Nuts – almonds, walnuts, cashews
- Seeds – hemp, chia, flax
If you are buying food with a label, read how much fiber is in a serving. Dr. Greger likes to use a 5:1 ratio or lower of carbohydrates to fiber. Simply divide the dietary fiber by the carbohydrates per serving. This will help you make choices comparing one product to another. The lower the ratio the better.
To start, track your intake for a week or so to see how many grams of fiber you are consuming and make adjustments. Eat more plant-based foods…
For more information on the obsession over protein, read my previous blog, The Protein Myths.
– Add Health to Your Life