When it comes to diet, is it all about the fiber?

Some people think so. As fad diets come and go it is important to remember the building blocks of good nutrition and the reasons why diet is important. A healthy diet will make you feel good, give you more energy, and ultimately aid in giving you a long life span. A good diet should lower the risk of chronic disease and give our bodies all the nutrients that they need to function properly. The amount of food we eat is important; just as important is the type of foods we eat. We must create a balance diet that incorporates all of the nutrients essential to life while eating the foods that our bodies will agree with.

With the vitamin and mineral fortification in processed foods and the availability of multivitamins, it has become easy to cover all of the micro nutrients that our bodies need. Sometimes this leads us to eating foods that are calorie dense instead of nutrient dense. This can be a problem. A greater problem is the nutrients that we aren’t supplementing in our diets. Mainly fiber.

There has been a lot of talk about whole food diets and how any reputable dieting program will incorporate a majority of whole grain, vegetables and fruit. Why is this important though and what makes an apple better than it’s processed counterpart apple juice? What makes oatmeal better than oat bread or veggies better than veggie sticks? The answer has a lot to do with, you guessed it, fiber.

Fiber has been heavily studied by the scientific community and they have consistently come to the same conclusions. High fiber diets are superior to low fiber diets. For myself and my clients I have always used this science backed evidence to recommend my client dramatically increase the fiber contents of their diets, regardless of the diet they are on. Sometimes this means taking a fiber supplement but most times it just means taking processed foods out in favor of whole food options. For instance, wild rice or brown rice in place of white rice. It is true that only 5% of Americans get the adequate amount of fiber, which according to the ACSM is 20-30g/day for adults. Average American fiber consumption 10-15g/day. HALF!

Some of the science backed benefits of fiber are: reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes, reduced risk of certain types of cancers, lower cholesterol, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, improved weight management and a sustained blood sugar level.

Could fiber be the fountain of youth and we’ve just abandoned it? Probably not, but the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that certifies registered dietitians has this to say, “The mean intake of dietary fiber in the United States is 17 g/day with only 5% of the population meeting the Adequate Intake. Healthy adults and children can achieve adequate dietary fiber intakes by increasing their intake of plant foods while concurrently decreasing energy from foods high in added sugar and fat, and low in fiber. Dietary messages to increase consumption of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and nuts should be broadly supported by food and nutrition practitioners.” Article link

What can we do for ourselves and our clients? Track our foods, figure out if we make the adequate fiber intake recommendations and consider revising our diets to make sure we all get enough of this essential nutrient. To find out more about fiber check out this video lecture from University of California TV: