Men are often preoccupied with their protein intake, even though few men are protein deficient. However, there’s another important nutrient a vast majority of men do fall short of – fiber. In fact, a 2021 survey found that only 5% of adult men in the U.S. consume enough fiber, a type of carbohydrate that helps with regular bowel movements along with other health benefits. The recommended daily fiber intake for men is 38 grams per day following a 2,000-calorie diet (for women, it’s 25 grams per day), yet, men average each day only about 17.4 grams of fiber, less than half of what men should be consuming.
What is fiber and what foods contain it?
Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods – no animal-based food contains fiber. The indigestible parts include leaves, stems, and any other edible part of a plant a person can eat. The fiber found in food is divided into two types – soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Both soluble and insoluble fibers are necessary for good health and are found in various healthy plant-based foods. Soluble fiber is the type that readily dissolves in water, giving a gummy or gel-like characteristic to foods. Examples of foods that contain soluble fiber include:
- Citrus fruits
Insoluble fiber is found in the tough, fibrous structure of plants, such as the stems. Examples of foods containing insoluble fiber include:
- Whole wheat flour
- Wheat bran
- Kiwi fruit
Besides preventing constipation, why else do we need fiber?
Part of why men obsess over protein intake is because they know and understand why protein – especially from animal food – benefits their health and well-being by building muscle mass, making enzymes aiding in digesting food, and regulating hormones. But most men are often unaware of the vast health benefits of fiber. So here’s a look at why fiber is so good for all of us:
- Reduces risk of hemorrhoids and diverticular disease
- Lowers cholesterol levels, particularly LDL or “bad” cholesterol that can clog arteries leading risk of heart attack or stroke.
- It makes us feel full and satisfied after eating, helping prevent overeating and leading to weight gain.
- Improves blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar.
- May increase longevity by reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Speaking of cancer, past research has shown that phytic acid, a nondigestible carbohydrate found in fiber-rich foods, was associated with a slowed progression of prostate cancer. Since prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer diagnosed in American men, it’s one more good reason for men to pay attention to their daily fiber intake.
Simple steps to eating more fiber
Now that men are familiar with why fiber is just as important of a nutrient as protein, here are simple ways to increase fiber each day:
- Slowly increase fiber to reach approximately 38 grams per day.
- Opt for fiber-rich whole-grain foods. For instance, switch from eating white bread or white rice to choosing instead 100% whole wheat bread, rye bread, brown rice, oatmeal, or bran listed as the first or second ingredient.
- Eat a variety of grains such as barley, farro, Kamut, and quinoa.
- Add dried beans, split peas, or lentils to soups
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables with peels or skins on.
- Add fruit to cereal and salads.
- Add vegetables to both canned or homemade soups and stews.
- Eat the whole orange, apple or grapes, instead of just the juice
- Don’t peel potatoes, leave the skin on for more fiber.
- Snack on nuts and seeds.
- Add fiber-rich raspberries or blueberries to yogurt.
- Swap fresh veggies for chips.
- Use whole grain pastas.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.