The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates most of the information included on food product labeling, ranging from what qualifies as a single serving to claims made about nutrients and health benefits. For a food to be considered high in fiber by FDA standards, it must provide at least 20 percent of the daily value for dietary fiber per serving.
The FDA uses daily values on food labels to help you discern whether a food is a good source of a particular nutrient. A food that provides 20 percent or more of the daily value for a nutrient per serving is considered high in that nutrient. Because the daily value for dietary fiber is 25 grams, a food that contains 5 grams of fiber or more per serving qualifies as “high in fiber.” A food that supplies between 2.5 grams and 4.9 grams of fiber per serving, or 10 percent to 19.6 percent of the nutrient’s daily value, is considered a “good source” of fiber.
A food product’s serving size is based on average portion size, and generally remains the same among like foods. For example, a single serving for most nuts is 1 ounce, or approximately 1/4 cup. The standard serving size for ready-to-eat cereal is 3/4 cup, while a single serving of cooked whole-grain cereal such as oatmeal is 1 cup. Common serving sizes are designed to help you compare the nutritional content of similar foods. Manufacturers can’t adjust a food’s serving size to make nutrient claims. For example, if a loaf of bread is a good source of fiber because it provides 2.5 grams of fiber per slice, the manufacturer can’t increase the serving size to two slices in order to label it “high in fiber.”
Daily fiber recommendations are based on caloric intake rather than age and gender, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which recommends getting 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. By these guidelines, a daily intake of 25 grams of fiber meets the needs of someone who consumes about 1,800 calories per day. If your diet is higher in calories, however, the fiber supplied by a serving of food will contribute less toward your daily needs than indicated by its daily value. If you require 34 grams of fiber per day, for example, a food that has 5 grams of fiber per serving will supply 15 percent of your daily fiber needs -- not 20 percent as implied by its daily value.
Not all high-fiber foods are labeled as such. Fresh fruits and vegetables, many of which are good sources of fiber or high in fiber, don’t require food labels. A 1-cup serving of raspberries, for example, has 8 grams of fiber, or 32 percent of the daily value, while a large sweet potato and a large apple supply about 24 percent and 22 percent of the daily value for fiber, respectively. Bulk bins are often filled with high-fiber foods that don't carry labels declaring them as such. Dried legumes such as lentils, navy beans and split peas are excellent sources of fiber, as are many dried fruits, including figs and prunes.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Additional Requirements for Nutrient Content Claims
- Medline Plus: Food Labeling
- USDA National Agricultural Library: Dietary, Functional, and Total Fiber
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Foods List
- American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide; Roberta Larson Duyff, M.S., R.D.
- Wellness Foods A to Z; Sheldon Margen, M.D., et al.
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images