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Real Food – the Tasty Way to Enjoy Fiber

February 16, 2012

“Better your new year with more fiber!” The ad screamed up at me from the page, as I cooled my heels in the dentist’s waiting room. “Clear, taste-free powder dissolves completely in your favorite foods and drinks – stock up for the new year!”

The ad got me wondering. How much fiber do those popular fiber capsules and powders really provide, compared to real food? Two popular products compete neck-in-neck. Both provide 3 grams of fiber “per serving.” I dug deeper, and learned that with Product A, a serving is three capsules; with Product B, it’s six capsules. Or 9-18 capsules, since these products say adults can enjoy “up to three servings a day.”

Our bodies need at least 22-38 grams of dietary fiber each day, according to scientific research. Those who eat more fiber have a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and several other diseases. Eating well, however, shouldn’t be an exercise in taking pills to meet numerical goals. It should be a celebration of delicious, largely plant-based foods.

Let’s look at two different people who both think they eat fairly well, and compare the fiber in their diets.

Chris eats:
Breakfast: Rice cereal, milk, OJ, white toast, butter and jelly
Snack: Pretzels
Lunch: Tomato soup, Saltines, grapes, water
Dinner: Salmon, white rice, lettuce, ranch dressing, Sugar Wafers, white wine

Lee eats:
Breakfast: Oat cereal, milk, raspberries, whole wheat toast, peanut butter
Snack: Almonds
Lunch: Lentil soup, Triscuits, an apple, water
Dinner: Salmon, bulgur, broccoli, butter, oatmeal cookies, white wine

Chris consumes 1736 calories, and 9.5g of fiber.
Lee consumes 1709 calories, and 39.5g of fiber.

Are you surprised at how “normal” and pleasant Lee’s food sounds? Lots of people think you’d need to chomp on raw vegetables and mounds of beans day in and day out to get enough fiber “just from food.” It just ain’t so. It turns out that little changes can make a big difference.

Change from iceberg lettuce to broccoli: get 3 times more fiber
Change from pretzels to almonds: get 4 times more fiber
Change from tomato soup to lentil soup: get 5 times more fiber
Change from Saltines to Triscuits: get 6 times more fiber

You could enjoy Lee’s tasty diet, or you could eat like Chris and supplement it with 60 capsules of psyllium husk and gelatin or with 30 capsules of wheat dextrin, microcrystalline cellulose, magnesium stearate, and colloidal silicon dioxide (yum!) to get the same amount of fiber.

I’m pretty happy with almonds, raspberries, bulgur, broccoli and all that other real food, myself. How about you?


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Eric Esterling, MS RD permalink
    February 16, 2012 11:48 pm

    It is also worth noting that some of those fiber supplements are often loaded with added sugar. Citrucel: 2 grams of fiber, 15 grams of sugar. What’s that about? And they’re expensive fiber. 2 grams of fiber 38 cents? I can buy an apple for less than that, get more fiber and actually enjoy it!

    • February 17, 2012 8:43 am

      Thanks for that Eric! There are SO many reasons to get our nutrients from real food!

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