The back of my cereal box says that 25 to 38 grams of fiber are recommended each day. Why is there such a disparity? How do I know if I need 25 grams or 38 grams?
The short and simple answer is that if you're a woman, shoot for 25 grams. If you're man, go for 38.
The reason is straightforward. The recommended levels, called "Adequate Intakes," are based on the number of calories recommended per day -- the basic formula is 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. This is the amount of fiber that appears to help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, and the range often publicized -- 25 to 38 grams -- includes just about all adults. The lower number is about right for most women, and the higher number is a good average for most men.
If you'd like to calculate your own personal goal for fiber intake, you first need to find out how many calories you should eat per day. Go to http://www.mypyramid.gov and click on "MyPyramid Plan" to help you determine that number. It will ask for your age, sex and activity level, and you have the option of including your weight and height, as well. When you plug in your numbers, you'll get a food plan designed for you, and it will include the recommended daily calorie intake.
Once you have the calorie recommendation, then you have to do some math. If your food plan totals 1,800 calories, for example, multiply 14 (grams of fiber) by 1.8 -- you should be consuming about 25 grams of fiber each day. If your food plan totals 2,400 calories, multiply 14 (grams of fiber) by 2.4 -- you should be consuming about 34 grams of fiber each day.
Dietitians recommend eating a wide variety of high-fiber foods, because different kinds contain different types of fiber, which have different functions and benefits. Some of the highest-fiber foods are:
- Barley and beans, peas and other legumes. Check the label for fiber content per serving.
- Cereals and other grain-based foods with whole grains, bran, psyllium or oats. Check the Nutrition Facts label for fiber content, because much of the fiber can be removed depending on how the grain is processed.
- Fruits and vegetables. Among the highest-fiber choices include apples, pears and citrus fruits; strawberries, raspberries and other berries, particularly those with consumable seeds; and broccoli, carrots, peppers, potatoes (with the skin), winter squash, sweet potatoes, cabbage and brussels sprouts.
- Nuts, particularly almonds and pistachios.
Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor: This column was reviewed by Jaime Foster, registered dietitian and program specialist for Ohio State University Extension in the Department of Human Nutrition, College of Education and Human Ecology.