For years, health experts and doctors have advised Americans, young and old, to eat fiber. Yet the latest research maintains 90 percent of Americans still aren't eating enough of it, according to the Institute for Food Safety and Health at the Illinois Institute of Technology (www.ifsh.iit.edu). The National Fiber Council recommends adults consume 32g a day; when the new Nutrition Facts panel becomes law, FDA will have increased the recommended daily allowance (RDA) from the current 25g to 28g.
Fiber not only promotes gastrointestinal health, it has a number of other health benefits. Its consumption can deter obesity, metabolic syndrome and changes in the intestine by promoting the growth of good bacteria in the colon, a study from Georgia State University found. Enriching mice's diets with fermentable inulin was able to curb metabolic syndrome caused by a high-fat diet. Inulin is found in chicory, asparagus, bananas, garlic, leeks and Jerusalem artichokes.
Grains, especially whole grains, are some of the best sources of fiber. Grains have other valuable nutrients, such as antioxidants not found in fruits and vegetables, as well as B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium and iron. They can reduce risks of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity, advantages few other foods offer.
The Whole Grains Council (wholegrainscouncil.org) says a full serving of whole grains is about 16g -- which typically contains half gram to around 3g of ﬁber. Wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, rye – when eaten in their "whole" form, contain more disease-ﬁghting phytochemicals and antioxidants than vegetables and fruit, the council states. Grain is considered whole as long as all three of its original parts — the bran, germ and endosperm — are still present in the same proportions as when the grain was growing in the ﬁeld.
Because of their fiber content as well as the phytochemicals and antioxidants, whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by 25-36 percent, stroke by 37 percent, Type 2 diabetes by 21-27 percent, digestive system cancers by 21-43 percent and hormone-related cancers by 10-40 percent, the Whole Grains Council claims.
How to get fiber
With all those positive attributes, most Americans don't eat enough whole grains, says a recent survey by Kellogg Co. (www.kelloggcompany.com). Why? The answer may be two-fold, Kellogg says. Consumers don't know where to find fiber, and mistakenly believe products that tout "whole grain" provide it. "The consumer confusion around fiber and whole grains is staggering," admits Nelson Almeida, vice president of global nutrition for Kellogg. "Even people trying to improve their diets may be failing to do so because of this confusion."
Nationally recognized dietitian Leslie Bonci, adds, "Fiber brings big benefits. Yet confusion about how to find foods with fiber likely contributes to America's fiber deficit."
To help remedy this, Kellogg has teamed up with Bonci to offer Fiber-pedia, an online report providing information to consumers about where to find good sources of fiber. It explains how fiber can be beneficial for a healthy weight, digestive health and heart health. It also describes the role fiber plays in helping keep children's digestive systems healthy so they can absorb nutrients.
"Kellogg has more ready-to-eat cereals that are at least a good source of fiber than any other food company," Almeida says. Those include All-Bran, Raisin Bran and Frosted Mini-Wheats.
Many food companies are adding fiber and whole grains to their products. Flowers Foods (www.flowersfoods.com) incorporates 21g of whole grains per slice and 3g of fiber in Nature's Own 12-Grain bread. The company's Double Fiber Wheat has 4g fiber per slice. Arla Foods (www.arlausa.com) is adding it to yogurt with new Arla Fibre yogurt in the U.K. The product contains 4.7g of fiber per serving, without the taste or texture of fiber, Arla says.