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Need to Boost Your Fiber Intake?

According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, while a majority of Americans consume sufficient amounts of most nutrients, there are some nutrients, like dietary fiber, that are consumed below the Estimated Average Requirement or Adequate Intake level. The average adult should consume around 30 grams of fiber daily, or about 15 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed. Of the underconsumed nutrients, dietary fiber is considered one of the nutrients of public health concern because low intakes are associated with health concerns. The Guidelines recommend shifting to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy to increase intake of nutrients of public health concerns.

Here’s what you need to know about fiber and how to maximize it in your diet. Be sure to speak with your doctor before changing your diet.

What is Fiber?

Fiber is the part of the food you eat that your body cannot digest. Unlike fat, carbohydrates, protein, and nutrients like vitamins and minerals, fiber passes intact through your digestive system. It might be surprising to think about something you can’t digest as important to your health, but fiber plays so many roles in your body.

For one thing, fiber is best known for maintaining bowel health and preventing digestive problems. to help lower bad cholesterol and may play a role in decreasing blood pressure and inflammation. It also slows the absorption of sugar, which can be especially important for people with diabetes.

How Does it Work?

The word “fiber” actually describes a complex group of substances with a variety of physical health benefits. It is generally classified as either soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. It can be most abundantly found in oats, peas, beans, carrots, barley, apples, and citrus fruits. It plays the biggest role in controlling cholesterol and blood sugar.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is easy to get from whole grains, nuts, and legumes. It’s what makes your digestive system work and keeps everything moving along smoothly, absorbing any excess water but also preventing things from getting stopped up.

Where Can I Get More?

One serving of avocado (50 grams, or about 1/3 of a medium fruit) contains 3 grams of dietary fiber, or 11% of your recommended daily intake, so it makes an excellent addition to your diet. One big benefit? It keeps you feelling fuller, longer.

Vegetables and fruits should make up most of your dietary fiber, with beans and legumes, whole grains, nuts, and other seeds fulfilling the rest of your fiber needs.

Want to work more avocados into your diet? Guacamole is everyone’s favorite dip, so pop over to the “how-to” tips page for information about how to keep your guac green — can you believe the answer is “pour milk over it”?! But first, you’ll want to make sure you know how to pick a ripe avocado at the grocery store. This video will show you that the trick is simple: Look for a darker skinned fruit that yields to gentle pressure from your thumb.

By Barbara Ruhs, MD, RDN August 15, 2017

An avid avocado-eater and guacamole-lover, Barb is the Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist for Avocados From Mexico and former sports nutritionist for Harvard University. Her philosophy on food is simple: Enjoy what you eat, prepare food with love, and add avocados to everything! 

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