Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain products and dried beans. You need fiber in your diet to ensure intestinal health and also to help control blood glucose and cholesterol. Fiber requirements vary with age and gender, but most children and adults should make sure all meals and snacks contain healthy amounts of fiber.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that men between the ages of 19 and 50 get about 38 grams of fiber daily; men over 50 should get at least 30 grams. The recommendation for women age 19 to 50 is at least 25 grams and for women over 50, at least 21 grams.
The Institute of Medicine has established fiber recommendations for children over the age of one. Children age one to three should have 19 grams fiber. Children age four to eight need 25 grams fiber. Girls age nine to 13 should aim for 26 grams, while boys this age should aim for 31 grams daily. Girls age 14 to 18 need 29 grams fiber and boys this age need 31 grams.
There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and some foods are higher in one than the other. But it is important to get both types in your diet and since most fiber-rich foods contain both types, you’ll meet your requirements if you eat a wide variety of high fiber foods throughout the day. Cooked or canned dried beans, such as navy and kidney beans, lentils, split peas and other legumes contain between 12 and 19 grams of fiber per cup. One-half cup 100 percent bran cereal contains about 12 grams fiber while 1 cup of cooked oatmeal contains 4 grams. One cup of cooked vegetables contain approximately 3 to 7 grams fiber; fruits and berries contain roughly 3 to 8 grams per serving. Nuts and seeds are also good sources of fiber, providing 2 to 4 grams per ounce.
Timing is Everything
If you have not been meeting your daily fiber requirements and want to start, don't try doing it all at once. The Cleveland Clinic explains that adding fiber to your diet too quickly may cause bloating, constipation and cramps. Start by making small changes -- adding a little extra fiber at a time such as eating an apple a day, with skin. Continue with this amount for 2 to 3 days and then add more fiber to your daily menu. Keep adding fiber slowly until you reach your recommended daily intake. You also need to increase your fluid intake when you increase fiber intake to prevent constipation. Be sure to drink at least 64 ounces of fluid daily.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fiber
- American Heart Association: Fiber and Children's Diets
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids
- Linus Pauling Institute Oregon State University: Fiber
- Cleveland Clinic.com: Improving Your Health With Fiber