Eat a variety of fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds for good health. These food groups contain fiber. Daily fiber intake, along with physical activity, can reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, manage blood sugar, control weight and help you feel full. Fiber, or roughage, is bulky and needs water to most efficiently pass through your digestive tract.
Water makes up 50 to 70 percent of body weight. Water helps to control body temperature, helps the gastrointestinal tract work properly, aids in dissolving food substances like minerals and removes waste. Fruit and vegetables are an excellent source of water. Tomatoes, lettuce, oranges and apples are more than 85 percent water.
The adequate intake of water is 3.7 liters per day for men and 2.7 liters for women. Excluding the water found in food, women should aim for 2.2 liters, or 9 cups of fluid intake. Men should aim for 3 liters, or 13 cups. Tea, coffee, fruit juice and milk are popular fluids that contribute significantly to water intake.
Fiber is the foodstuffs that remain undigested when they enter the large intestine. Dietary fiber is found naturally in food, and functional fiber is added to food to provide health benefits. Almost all fiber is plant-derived and is considered to be carbohydrates. Insoluble fiber, found in whole grains and plants such as broccoli, increases fecal bulk and helps move food through the digestive tract quickly. Soluble fiber, found in oats, beans and citrus fruits, slows down digestion and improves blood cholesterol and slows glucose absorption.
For adults aged 14 to 50, the adequate intake for fiber is 25 grams daily for women and 38 grams daily for men. This is about 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories. For adults older than 50, women need 21 grams per day and men need 30 grams daily. Very high fiber intake, more than 60 grams, creates health risks. It may lower nutrient availability, such as decreasing zinc and iron absorption.
Fiber and Water
It is important to consume close to the recommended amounts of both fluid and fiber. If fluid intake is low and fiber intake is high, stool can become very hard and painful to pass. In severe cases, this can cause intestinal blockage. If you choose to consume more fiber than is recommended, increase fluid intake, too. Use thirst, stomach discomfort and bowel function as an indication of whether to increase fluids.
Eat plant foods daily. Select a variety of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds to benefit from both types of dietary fiber. For ideal fluid intake, choose water most often as your beverage, and limit the amount of beverages with added sugars.
- “Perspectives in Nutrition”; G.M. Wardlaw, et al.; 2007
- MayoClinic.com; Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet; November 2009