In Search of Fiber

Assorted beans and whote wheat pasta mound with the words eat your fiber on wooden blocks placed on top

Keeping healthy is a numbers game that can feel a bit complicated. Your age, height, weight, gender and amount of physical activity all play a role, but with a little trial and error, it’s not too difficult to get a handle on your personal numbers.

I don’t recommend counting calories or grams of nutrients on a daily basis, but performing a mini-inventory every so often isn’t a bad idea. Here’s why.

According to a study from Harvard University, the average American typically consumes only half of their recommended daily allowance (RDA) of fiber. Proudly positive I was not a member of that group, I took it upon myself to crunch some numbers.

And I was shocked out of my shorts!

There is a little wiggle room, but the goal is to consume 25 to 38 grams of fiber on a daily basis, and my grand total for the day was only nine! NINE!

I eat whole grains; I eat fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds — so what happened? The problem is how much you have to eat. Shelled walnuts are a nutritionally sound choice of fiber at 7 grams per 1-cup serving, but who eats an entire cup? The same goes for raspberries, peas and a slew of other healthy fiber choices.

My infatuation with muscle-building protein proved to be another problem. Many protein-rich foods, such as lean dairy, chicken, fish and eggs, are naturally low in fiber. And unless your protein drink is plant-based, ditto.

That RDA of fiber does a lot more than create a truly spectacular bowel movement. It may play a part in reducing the risk of some cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, so it’s pretty dang important. It also helps you to lose weight and keep belly fat in check.

It was simple to rectify the problem with some easy swaps. Steel-cut oats sprinkled with a quarter cup each of blueberries and pecans offered a whopping 7 grams of fiber for breakfast and kept me feeling full all morning. Next, I added a handful of garbanzo beans to my chicken salad, which brought those numbers up considerably (15 grams) and for dinner I chose fiberlicious asparagus (3 grams) as my side. With a protein bar for a snack (3 grams), I easily hit my mark and kept my protein in check.

Are you getting enough fiber? If your numbers are a little low, add a single tablespoon of chia seeds to a smoothie or protein drink for an additional 5.5 grams of fiber. —Karen

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