“Better your new year with more fiber!” The ad screamed up at me from the page, as I cooled my heels in the dentist’s waiting room. “Clear, taste-free powder dissolves completely in your favorite foods and drinks – stock up for the new year!” The ad got me wondering. How much fiber do those popular fiber capsules and powders really provide, compared to real food? Two popular products compete neck-in-neck. Both provide 3 grams of fiber “per serving.” I dug deeper, and learned that with Product A, a serving is three capsules; with Product B, it’s six capsules. Or 9-18 capsules, since these products say adults can enjoy “up to three servings a day.” Our bodies need at least 22-38 grams of dietary fiber each day, according to scientific research. Those who eat more fiber have a lower risk for heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and several other diseases. Eating well, however, shouldn’t be an exercise in taking pills to meet numerical goals. It should be a celebration of delicious, largely plant-based foods. Let’s look at two different people who both think they eat fairly well, and compare the fiber in their diets. Chris eats: Breakfast: Rice cereal, milk, OJ, white toast, butter and jelly Snack: Pretzels Lunch: Tomato soup, Saltines, grapes, water Dinner: Salmon, white rice, lettuce, ranch dressing, Sugar Wafers, white wine Lee eats: Breakfast: Oat cereal, milk, raspberries, whole wheat toast, peanut butter Snack: Almonds Lunch: Lentil soup, Triscuits, an apple, water Dinner: Salmon, bulgur, broccoli, butter, oatmeal cookies, white wine Chris consumes 1736 calories, and 9.5g of fiber. Lee consumes 1709 calories, and 39.5g of fiber. Are you surprised at how “normal” and pleasant Lee’s food sounds? Lots of people think you’d need to chomp on raw vegetables and mounds of beans day in and day out to get enough fiber “just from food.” It just ain’t so. It turns out that little changes can make a big difference. Change from iceberg lettuce to broccoli: get 3 times more fiber Change from pretzels to almonds: get 4 times more fiber Change from tomato soup to lentil soup: get 5 times more fiber Change from Saltines to Triscuits: get 6 times more fiber You could enjoy Lee’s tasty diet, or you could eat like Chris and supplement it with 60 capsules of psyllium husk and gelatin or with 30 capsules of wheat dextrin, microcrystalline cellulose, magnesium stearate, and colloidal silicon dioxide (yum!) to get the same amount of fiber. I’m pretty happy with almonds, raspberries, bulgur, broccoli and all that other real food, myself. How about you? —Cindy

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