Figuring Out Your Daily Fiber Intake: Optimize Your Health

Which foods pack the most punch when it comes to fiber?

By Roberta H. Anding, MS, Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital
Edited by Kate Findley and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, The Great Courses Daily

How do you incorporate more fiber into your diet? Professor Anding provides an easy way to get half your daily needs at breakfast. Also, here’s what you should keep in mind when using online tools to calculate your daily intake.

Woman eating oatmeal
Key to a reliable online database for accurate fiber content in foods, you should search for trusted medical resources, such as the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board. Photo By Pheelings media / Shutterstock

Daily Fiber Intake

Fiber has many benefits including weight management, cholesterol reduction, and prevention of digestive conditions. You may be wondering, though, what your daily fiber intake should be. 

According to the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board, recommendations for fiber are based on age and calorie intake. For men and women under the age of 50, they recommend 38 grams for men and about 25 grams for women. 

For those past age 50, the board recommends 30 grams of fiber for men and 21 grams for women. Why is that the case? For most of us, we can tolerate fewer calories as we age, so the recommendations are calorie-driven. 

Fewer calories mean that you have less natural exposure to fiber. These recommendations for daily fiber intake include a combination of fiber types. 

You should not consume only soluble fiber (found in foods such as oatmeal and lentils that turn to gel during digestion) or insoluble fiber (“roughage” found in plant-derived foods such as celery and nuts that isn’t completely broken down by the gut) because there are benefits to both. You don’t want to eliminate one at the expense of another. 

When you’re calculating your daily fiber intake, you really want to concentrate on total fiber and not feel the need to break down the grams into categories. If you’re eating a balanced diet, the proportion of soluble and insoluble fiber should sort itself out naturally.

High-Fiber Foods

What are high-fiber foods? A cup of raspberries has eight grams of fiber. If you need between 21 and 25 grams, raspberries are a good option to add to your oatmeal.

A typical bowl of oatmeal has about four grams of fiber. A cup of berries and a cup of oatmeal gives you approximately half the fiber content that you need for the day. 

A pear has five grams per fruit. Keep in mind that a pear has an outer fibrous coating and contains fiber in the softer portion located in the inside of the pear. By eating the skin of the pear, then, you are receiving the full benefits of all the fiber. A cup of broccoli has about two to three grams of fiber.

Online Tools for Fiber Intake

“Be careful when you look online for the fiber content of food,” Professor Anding said. “You can go to the internet today and find numbers that are different than the ones that I just gave you.”

The numbers largely depend on the database that was used. For example, Professor Anding obtained her numbers from the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board

Sometimes the database may not be comprehensive enough to have the fiber content of all foods. So, when you type your diet history into the computer, it shows that you have a lot of missing values for fiber in food. It just means that the company that provided that database didn’t put the fiber content in, not necessarily that you’re not consuming a certain amount of fiber. 

“I find that’s a real challenge for people who use online nutrition programs to evaluate your diet,” Professor Anding said. “In an evaluation of your diet, you may erroneously think that you need to take a fiber supplement when actually it’s a flaw of the database.”

Therefore, when determining your daily fiber intake, it’s best to use a trusted medical resource such as the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board. Better yet, you can make an appointment with a nutritionist to determine your optimal meal plan and where you might be falling short. 

This article was edited by Kate Findley, Writer for The Great Courses Daily, and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Proofreader and Copy Editor for The Great Courses Daily.

Professor Roberta H. Anding is a registered dietitian and Director of Sports Nutrition and a clinical dietitian at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. She also teaches and lectures in the Baylor College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics, Section of Adolescent Medicine and Sports Medicine, and in the Department of Kinesiology at Rice University.

About Kate Findley 401 Articles
Kate is a writer, novelist, and blogger living in Los Angeles. She has been writing for The Great Courses since 2017. It incorporates her two favorite things: writing and learning.