The average American woman doesn't get enough fiber each day. Fiber helps to keep your cholesterol low, preventing your arteries from developing plaque that can lead to serious health problems. It also keeps your appetite satisfied and may help keep your weight down. If you, like most people, don't get enough fiber, increasing your intake of fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains is an easy fix.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that women get at least 25 grams of fiber per day to maintain normal blood glucose levels and regularity and reduce the risk of heart disease. The IOM does not suggest an upper limit for daily fiber intake because, although an extremely high intake can cause unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms, it isn't dangerous. The bulkiness of fiber makes you feel full, so you are unlikely to eat more fiber than your body can handle.
American women in every age group take in much less fiber than they should each day. The average woman in her twenties gets about 13.6 grams of fiber per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2009 "What We Eat in America" report. Women in their 30s take in more fiber, averaging 16.6 grams per day, but still far below the recommended 25 grams. Women also take in more saturated fat and cholesterol than they should, increasing their risk of developing heart problems.
How To Get Enough Fiber
If 25 grams a day means nothing to you, consider the fiber content in foods you regularly eat. A cup of split peas, black beans or lentils provides more than 15 grams of fiber, according to MayoClinic.com. A cup of raspberries, cooked artichoke or green peas has 8 to 10 grams of fiber. A bran muffin, a cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti, a bowl of oatmeal, a pear or an apple with skin gives you 4 to 6 grams of fiber. An ounce of almonds, pistachios or pecans contains 2 to 4 grams of fiber.
Eating more fiber-rich foods may help decrease your waistline, according to researchers who published a study in "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2010. They monitored the diets of nearly 90,000 healthy adults for more than 6 years and found that those who took in more fiber, particularly from whole-grain cereals, had smaller waist circumferences and lower body weight than those who didn't eat much fiber.
Maia Appleby is a NASM-certified personal trainer with more than 15 years of experience in the fitness industry. Her articles have been published in a wide variety of print magazines and online publications, including the Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, New Moon Network and Bodybuilding.com.