Discovery Fit & Health
Dietary fiber is considered a valuable part of a nutritional diet because fiber can make you feel full. This helps with weight loss and helps lower cholesterol, easing the risk of many diseases, such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. It's also been suggested that eating plenty of fiber helps keep certain digestive systems healthy and can even prevent colon cancer in many people. The Institute of Medicine has defined dietary fiber as fiber that is nondigestible and naturally found in plants. Another kind of fiber is functional fiber, which also has some health benefits. Together these make up total fiber.
You can find dietary fiber in most fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. Some of the foods with the highest dietary content are pears, dried figs, split cooked peas, lentils, kidney beans, wheat bran flakes, bran cereal with raisins, brown rice, oatmeal and dry mixed nuts. Any of these sources are good, as are many other crackers, fresh fruits and vegetables [source: ADA position]. The best choices, of course, are those you enjoy enough to eat regularly and that are not high in fat or only enjoyable with added creams, sugars or other ingredients that take away from their healthy effects. For example, nuts are great sources of fiber, but high in fat, so they should be enjoyed in moderation by anyone who is watching his or her weight. Whole-grain cereals provide excellent fiber sources but should be eaten with low-fat milk and little to no added sugar.
In January 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services released new Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The pyramid of the past became "My Plate" to help people better see how to balance their food choices. One-fourth of the plate is made up of grains, and the guidelines say to make at least half of the grains whole grains [source: Choose My Plate]. A few months later, the Harvard School of Public Health released its own version of the guidelines, modifying a few recommendations it felt needed more explanation [source: Gustafson]. One of these was grains. The Harvard plate replaces the word "grains" with "whole grains," to make it more clear to Americans that refined grains (such as white bread and white rice) act like sugar in the body [source: Harvard].
Women should get 25 grams of fiber a day and men should get 38 grams -- through age 50. After that, needs for fiber drop: women over 50 need 21 grams a day and men over 50 need 30 grams a day [source: ADA Fiber].
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