Even if you’re not among the 68 percent of U.S. adults who are overweight or obese, many consumers are striving to get a leg up on their nutritional health. Some of the simplest government facts can inspire consumers to better nutrition.
U.S. nutrition experts issue “leading indicators” on the nation’s nutritional health. USDA’s national “What We Eat In America” survey data indicate that dietary fiber intakes among U.S. consumers average only 16 grams per day. The problem is that the daily Adequate Intake for fiber is set at 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men!
There’s even more reason to take stock of fiber intake. USDA nutrition experts use an index to assign scores to diets on a scale in which a score of 100 indicates that the diet meets policies known as the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans”—as described at ChooseMyPlate.gov. The index reports that two high-fiber food categories—legumes (beans and peas) and dark-green vegetables—are the two veggie subgroups for which U.S. dietary intakes are furthest from recommended levels.
Significantly, a USDA-funded expert in developing successful weight-control plans recommends ample legumes and green veggies because they are both “slow-digesting” carbohydrates and high in fiber. The emphasis on hunger-reducing foods is part of an overall craving-control strategy. The approach is based on identifying—and slowly changing—unhealthy food attachments that activate reward pathways in the brain.
All carbohydrates break down into sugar, and scientists have long known that the human brain is programmed to crave sugar to some degree. The Recommended Daily Allowance for carbohydrates is based on the amount needed—not craved—by the brain. The plan’s goal is to “reprogram” the brain’s habitual attachment to overconsumption of added sugars and low-fiber, less-filling refined grains commonly found in commercial foods.
Good sources of food fiber include legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. Unlike refined grains, whole grains contain the entire grain kernel including bran.
Below are government websites where consumers can look up science-based data on food nutrients and score their own nutritional home runs:
The USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference provides searches by foods in descending order of the content of individual nutrients selected, including fiber.
The USDA What's In The Foods You Eat Search Tool provides searches of more complex, multi-ingredient foods.
The USDA SuperTracker’s Food-A-Pedia provides nutrition information so consumers can compare nutrient data on several foods side by side.