When the word fiber is mentioned many people, including seniors, think only about “regularity” and maintaining routine bowel movements. However, thinking of fiber only in the context of bowel management downplays the significant role fiber has in helping to promote overall health. In addition to maintaining a healthy digestive tract, potential benefits of dietary fiber include helping to:
- Lower blood cholesterol levels
- Lower blood glucose levels
- Contribute to a healthy immune system
- Improve calcium absorption
- Reduce risks for some types of cancer
Fiber benefits people at any age yet data shows that the average intake of dietary fiber for most individuals in America is about half what is recommended. The rule of thumb is to target 14 grams of fiber in the diet for every 1,000 calories consumed. For many seniors that translates to around 21-30 grams of fiber each day. Luckily, many foods and recipes offer good sources for easily adding fiber into daily eating occasions. Fiber is found in whole fruits and vegetables; nuts and seeds; wheat bran and whole wheat; oat bran and other cereal grains. Targeting the suggested five servings of fruits and vegetables and making half of any grains ‘whole’ grains helps to meet the recommended daily fiber intake.
Ref. International Food Information Council Foundation. Fiber Fact Sheet. Written 2008, updated 2014.
USDA & HHS 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans