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Yep, that dreaded F word (read more about that here) still continues to surface, even for those who practice a “clean, whole foods” diet.
Back when the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 was released, dietary fiber was noted as a nutrient of concern. This means we, Americans, still aren’t getting enough in our diets. For reference, American men and women eat only about 15 to 18 grams per day!
The Food and Drug Administration updated the percent Daily Value (DV) on the new food label (more about that here) from 25 to 28 grams given the findings on fiber. It’s a stellar nutrient that aids in laxation, reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and assists in maintaining normal blood glucose levels.
The DV represents a percentage based on a 2,000-calorie diet that helps individuals identify whether a food item is low (less than 5 percent) or high (greater than 20 percent) of a particular nutrient. Nutrients like saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and added sugar are recommended to be kept to a minimum. On the other hand, nutrients like fiber, calcium, potassium, iron and vitamin D are favorable to be above that 20 percent DV.
Where things get confusing is when you think about the other acronyms surrounding dietary fiber, such as the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) and Adequate Intake (AI). DRIs refer to the daily recommended intakes of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals for the general healthy population according to specific age and gender. For instance, the DRI for dietary fiber for adult males (19 to 50 years of age) is 38 grams/day, whereas for adult females (19 to 50 years of age) it’s 25 grams/day.
AI is a representative figure that is believed to cover the needs of all individuals in the group, which for dietary fiber is listed as 14 grams/total fiber per 1,000 calories, or the equivalent of the DRIs listed above.
The FDA couldn’t keep it easy for us, huh? Don’t fret, we break down just how to meet your daily fiber needs below, and trust us, with a little prep, you’ll be on your way to meeting if not exceeding your dietary fiber needs in no time!
Sample Dietary Fiber Meal Plan
- 6 ounces full-fat yogurt of choice – 0 grams
- 1 cup wild blueberries – 6 grams
- 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts – 1.5 grams
Total Dietary Fiber: 7.5 grams
RDN Tip: “One of my favorite ways to sneak fiber into my breakfast is to add walnuts. Not only do walnut have 2 grams of fiber (a little less than 10 percent the Daily Value) in each 1-ounce serving, but new research suggests that consuming walnuts may increase the amount of good probiotic-type bacteria in the gut and, therefore, be good for digestive health. The researchers believe that the fiber, specifically, helps nourish and grow the bacteria that keeps the digestive system healthy.” Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, Sports Dietitian and Freelance Writer
BYOB. (Build Your Own Bowl)
- 2 cups baby spinach – 1.2 grams
- ½ cup cooked winter squash – 3 grams
- ½ cup garbanzo beans – 8.1 grams
- ½ cup cooked artichokes – 7.2 grams
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette – 0 grams
- 2 rye wafer crackers – 5 grams
Total Dietary Fiber: 24.5 grams
RDN Tip: “Spinach has fiber, magnesium and calcium, all great for runners and muscle health. For example, magnesium reduces muscle cramping and improves recovery. Spinach also has 1.8 grams of protein in 2 cups, which is beneficial for recovery postworkout.” Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, Sports Dietitian and Weight Management Specialist
- 1 ounce (48 nuts) roasted and salted pistachios – 3 grams
- 1 medium pear – 5.5 grams
Total Dietary Fiber: 8.5 grams
RDN Tip: Not only are pistachios a great way to get antioxidants into your diet, but the roasted and salted variety also provides the perfect postworkout nosh for your body. Sodium from the pistachios and the potassium in the pear work synergistically to balance those electrolytes!
- 1 medium sweet potato, baked in skin – 3.8 grams
- ½ cup black beans – 7.5 grams
- ¼ cup pico de gallo salsa – 1 gram
- ⅓ medium avocado – 3 grams
Total Dietary Fiber: 15.3 grams
RDN Tip: “I’m a huge fan of plant-based meals because of the health-promoting effects of their naturally high-fiber and low saturated fat content. Sweet potatoes and black beans are great sources of fiber, which studies find promotes satiety, boosts metabolism and even lowers risk of death from heart, infectious and respiratory diseases. Anytime you can eat almost half your daily fiber needs in one meal, it’s a winner!” Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, New York City Private Practice Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
- 1 slice whole-grain bread, toasted – 4 grams
- 1 tablespoon almond butter – 1.6 grams
- 1 medium banana, sliced – 3.1 grams
- 1 dash ground cinnamon – 0 grams
Total Dietary Fiber: 8.7 grams
Daily Total Dietary Fiber: 64.5 grams
RDN Tip: “Getting fiber is easier than you think. In fact, some of your favorite foods can help you meet your daily requirement, like whole-grain bread paired with almond butter and banana slices. Not only does research show those with higher whole-grain consumption have lower bodyweight measures, but you also get more bang for your buck with whole grains given they’re also filled with B vitamins, too!” Chef Sara Haas, RDN, LDN, Culinary Dietitian
*As you can see, this is a vegetarian meal plan. If you prefer animal proteins, feel free to substitute the garbanzo beans and black beans at lunch and dinner for a lean protein option, noting fiber content will decrease to a daily total of 48.9 grams, still well above average!