Pennsylvanians Not Eating Enough Fruits & Veggies

Pennsylvanians are eating less and less fruits and vegetables each year. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) data, in 2013, on average, only 15 percent of adult Pa. residents 18 years and older reported they are eating the recommended five or more fruits and vegetables each day. This is down from 24 percent in 2009. This should not be the case, especially when Pennsylvania has one of the most fertile soils in the country that produces an abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, we have easy access to fruits and vegetables at our local grocery stores and farmers markets.

 

Benefits of Dietary Fiber

Fruits and vegetables are our primary source of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that help protect us from chronic disease, like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Fiber is also known for its ability to help increase the number of bowel movements (relieve constipation).

A high-fiber diet may also lower the risk of developing hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, development of diabetes and some experts also say colorectal cancer. For diabetes prevention and control, a high-fiber diet (especially soluble fiber) can help slow down the absorption of sugar. It can also help prevent weight gain. Eating whole fruits and vegetables requires more chewing time; it allows your body time to send signals to the brain that you are eating and are no longer hungry. This helps the body feel “full,” preventing overeating. Dietary fiber from plant-based food sources, like fruits and vegetables, are low in calories and are less “energy dense.” This allows you to eat more food with fewer calories. It helps you achieve or maintain a healthful weight.

 

Fiber

Dietary fiber is known as roughage or bulk, all the parts of plant foods that the body does not digest or absorb. It passes relatively intact through the stomach, small intestine, colon and out of the body. Fiber is typically classified as either soluble (dissolves in water) or insoluble (does not dissolve in water). Most plant-based foods contain both types of fiber. What differs is the amount and type of fiber each food contains.

Some food sources of soluble fiber are oats, beans, apples, carrots, peas, barley, citrus fruits and phylum. Soluble fiber is known to improve heart health and blood glucose. It lowers blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Some food sources of insoluble fiber are nuts, beans, wheat bran, whole wheat flour and vegetables like green beans, potatoes and cauliflower.

Some food sources poor in fiber are refined or processed foods. Non-whole-grain cereals are lower in fiber because the processing removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain. The fiber content is reduced when removing bran as well as the skin and pulp from fruits and vegetables.
How Much Fiber Do You Need?

The usual intake of dietary fiber in the U.S. is 15 grams/day, much less than required. Generally speaking, adults need an intake of 25 to 38 grams of fiber per day. However, talk to your doctor about your specific fiber needs as well as the best way to meet your needs, especially if you have food allergies that prevent you from consuming certain foods.

 

Ways to Increase Your Fiber Intake

Three potential strategies that can help you increase your daily fruits and vegetables intake:

  1. Consume adequate amounts of dietary fiber from a variety of plant foods. Why? Because each fruit and vegetable has its own unique characteristic, texture, flavor and health benefits.
  2. Eat more high fiber foods.
  3. Shop at your local farmers market.

 

General Recommendations for Your Daily Fiber Intake

  • Consume more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, if possible.
  • Be selective of your food choices, and try to avoid processed foods that are low in fiber..
  • Avoid pesticides, and wash your fruits and vegetables.
  • Buy organic products, if possible.
  • Find and try a variety of recipes that use fruits and vegetables as main ingredients.
  • Grow your own fruits and vegetables, if possible.
  • Talk to your doctors about your fiber intake needs.
  • Checkout La Voz Latina Central’s food section for great recipes.
  • Maintain a healthful weight by balancing calories with physical activity.

 

Please talk to your doctor about eating more fruits and vegetables. If we improve our fiber intake, better health outcomes will result; if we don’t, then we can only expect poorer health outcomes in Pennsylvania. I hope you choose a healthful lifestyle and diet, one rich in dietary fiber. Take good care of yourself.

Send your health questions to ¡Hola, Oralia! at dr.oraliagarciadominic@gmail.com. Together we can help keep Pennsylvania residents healthy!

Oralia Dominic

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