There’s one nutrient people aren’t using to its full advantage: fiber.
Even though fiber may not be the most exciting nutrient, it’s probably one of the hardest working for your body.
As it turns out, people get about half as much of this essential nutrient as they need on a daily basis.
Women need 25 grams of fiber per day and men need 38 grams per day, according to the Institute of Medicine.
This may be, in part, related to the decline in cooking at home and the growing popularity of the restaurant meal, according to a recent article in The Atlantic.
The main source of fiber is fruits and vegetables and these foods are particularly costly for restaurants. They cost more and their shelf life isn’t as long. Nonetheless, including more fiber in our diet is a noble pursuit, according to experts.
Bradley said fiber, part of the plant the body cannot break down, can rev up a listless metabolism. “It takes us longer to chew and it stores water, too,” Bradley said. “The satiety value is really helpful.”
And that’s not all. Fiber not only keeps us full, but it is also full of phytonutrients, the little chemicals known for fighting cancer cells and systemic inflammation.
If you’re looking to boost your fiber intake, there are several steps Bradley recommended. The first involves getting comfortable with reading labels at the grocery store.
If something isn’t a fresh fruit or vegetable, a whole grain should be the first ingredient on the label, Bradley said.
“A good serving of fiber is at least 5 grams,” she said.
Compounding the matter is the fact that convenience foods are in vogue.
Try looking for smaller, natural brands at the store if you are going to buy convenience foods. But beware of branding, as Bradley mentioned.
“People have a hard time reading labels,” she said. “A package may say ‘high fiber’ but when you look at the ingredients there’s no whole grain listed.”
For more information on how to maintain a balanced diet, speak with your Lahey Health physician.