Food Tips: How much fiber do we need in a day?

How much fiber do we really need in a day, and how do we get it?

It all depends on who you are — that is, an active male needs more than a more sedentary female. Typically, the recommendation ranges from 20 to 38 grams per day, but the average American gets only about 15 grams daily.

You want fiber in your diet for a few key reasons:

  • It helps curb hunger, which keeps you feeling fuller, longer.
  • Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol.
  • Insoluble fiber helps your digestive system work properly.
  • Fiber-rich foods are high in healthful vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

Grocery stores are now full of products sporting labels that tout fiber content. Some contain "functional fibers" — manmade fiber additives created in the lab and added to foods such as yogurt, snack bars and crackers. Even beverages and sugar substitutes such as Splenda now offer "added fiber."

You may see these added fibers listed as inulin, pectin, cellulose, chicory root, chicory extract, polydextrose and oligosaccharides. The jury is still out on these additives. To really get all of fiber's benefits, stick to the real deal. Following is a sample of a daily menu that's filled with fiber:

Breakfast: 1 cup cooked oatmeal with 2 tablespoons raisins (5 grams of fiber)

Morning Snack: Orange and 1/4 cup almonds (7 grams)

Lunch: Spinach salad with 1/4 cup chickpeas, 10 cherry tomatoes and a slice of whole wheat bread (18 grams)

Afternoon Snack: Apple with 1 tablespoon peanut butter (5 grams)

Dinner: Grilled salmon with 1 medium baked sweet potato and 1 cup steamed broccoli (9 grams)

Daily total: 1,400 calories; 44 grams of fiber

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