YES, you need fiber. NO, you are not getting enough. The average overweight, couch-potato, fat-loving American – you, me, and our neighbors – are lucky if we consume 12-15 grams of fiber a day. But, more importantly, how are we obtaining our fiber? First, the main source of fiber in any diet is from fruits, vegetables, and grains. Fat has no fiber and meat has extremely little. And no, that Twinkie in your mouth does not have any fiber.
All right, you say. I eat enough fruits and vegetables. Maybe, but if you do you are definitely in the minority. On any given day 45% of Americans have no fruits and 22% have no vegetables. Less than 30% have at least 3 servings of vegetables or 2 servings of fruit and just 9% of people have the recommended FIVE servings of fruits and vegetables every day ! OK, maybe I don’t get enough, but what I do get is good for me. Get real. Another survey of 4,806 men/women that did consume nearly 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit every day obtained it from iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, French fries, bananas and orange juice. What a great source of nutrition that is. A salad probably drowned in oily dressing and French fries at lunch; and a banana with concentrated orange juice (pulp free of course) for breakfast. While we are on this topic, since 1978 Americans have managed to increase their fill of prepared, i.e. fast and easy, foods from 18% of total calories to 32% . This “easy” food has more calories, more fat, less calcium, less iron, and of course, less fiber. No wonder we have the health epidemic we suffer from today.
None of this applies to me because my wife is very smart and cooks for me. She knows what to prepare. Maybe, but I doubt it. The Women’s Health Study, a study of over 39,876 health care professional women disagree . These obviously well-educated and health-smart women didn’t do much better than the average overweight American. Less than 50% managed to have more than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Remember, these are health care professional women who know the importance of good nutrition and how to obtain it!
Unfortunately, our poor eating habits also affect our children as we teach them to continue our patterns of poor nutrition and obesity. On any typical day, over 30% of children eat fast food. They consume 187 extra calories, 9 grams more fat, 24 grams more carbohydrates, 26 grams more added sugars, more sugar-sweetened beverages, over 1 gram less fiber, and fewer fruits and nonstarchy vegetable .
So why are we all doing so lousy? According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)  we have more fiber available to us now than anytime in history. In 1970 there was an average of 19 g/day of fiber available to each person for consumption. In 2000, there was 24 g/day of fiber available. NO, this does not mean you are eating 24 grams. This is the amount of fiber produced and AVAILABLE for you to eat. Unfortunately, much of it, about ½, is thrown away and wasted. In fact, our consumption of fruits has decreased from 282 pounds/year in 1996 to 265 pounds/year in 2003 while our consumption of vegetables has remained steady at about 417 pounds/year.  By the way, consumption of fats and oils has increased more than 33% in less than 10 years!
So tell me, what food sources do we really obtain our fiber from? The USDA tells us that meat, poultry, fish, daily products, eggs, fats, oils, sugars, and sweeteners has NO fiber. Sorry – a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and white bread with jelly does not work. In 1970 we obtained 13% of our total fiber from fruit while today we only obtain 11.4% of fiber from fruit. In 1970 vegetables were 33% of our fiber source, but only 27% today. Legumes have held steady at about 15% while grain products increased from 30% to 35% of our daily fiber intake. Miscellaneous sources – coffee, tea, spices, cocoa beans, and unassigned fortifications – increased from 9% to 11.3%.
Now what? Now I want you learn why you need all this fiber. Then you are going to learn how much fiber and what types of fiber you need. Finally, you will learn how to obtain all this wonderful fiber.
So, follow along and click here!
PS, if you want a refresher on what fiber is, check this fantastic 1989 patient handout from the Home Health Series on fiber.
Fruit and vegetables in the American diet: data from the NHANES II survey. American Journal of Public Health, Vol 80, Issue 12 1443-1449, Copyright © 1990 by American Public Health Association
More Americans Are Eating "5 A Day" but Intakes of Dark Green and Cruciferous Vegetables Remain Low. (Journal of Nutrition. 2000;130:3063-3067.)
© 2000 The American Society for Nutritional Sciences
Role of food prepared away from home in the American diet, 1977-78 versus 1994-96: changes and consequences. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2002 May-Jun;34(3):140-50.
Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: the Women's Health Study American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 72, No. 4, 922-928, October 2000 © 2000 American Society for Clinical Nutrition
Effects of Fast-Food Consumption on Energy Intake and Diet Quality Among Children in a National Household Survey. PEDIATRICS Vol. 113 No. 1 January 2004, pp. 112-118
USDA-NASS Agricultural Statistics 2005. Table 13.2
USDA-NASS Agricultural Statistics 2005. Table 13.5