Fiber intake in the US is startlingly low. The daily recommended amounts of fiber are 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women, but less than 10% of Americans are meeting these requirements. This is especially worrisome as inadequate fiber intake has been linked to increased risks of heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
To help bridge this intake gap, food companies market processed breakfast cereals, granola bars and even brownies with added fiber. While these products can help increase the overall fiber in one’s diet, the type of fiber used in these products may actually do more harm than good. The added fiber usually comes in the form of a chicory root extract called inulin. Inulin is a non-digestible carbohydrate that resists hydrolysis and is highly fermentable in the gut. For those with a history of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), this fermentation can lead to undesirable symptoms like severe gas, bloating and diarrhea.
Rather than reaching for packaged foods with added fiber to get our fiber fix, we should be increasing the amount of whole grains, vegetables and legumes in our diet — which, let’s face it, most of us already know. Though these foods are the real fiber superstars, other less obvious whole foods can also make a serious contribution to daily fiber intake. So ditch the packaged food fiber-boosters and focus on filling any gaps with unexpected fiber sources, like the foods below: