The answer is yes. Yes, you are. And furthermore, you really should stop worrying about it.

I will discuss what you should worry about in a bit, but let’s examine this protein craze first. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, men eat an average of 102 grams and woman an average 70 grams each day. The recommended U.S. daily allowance is 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women.

Certainly, different people have different needs, but considering we’re already consuming almost twice the recommended amount, it could be argued we’re all covered. In fact, less than 3% of Americans are considered protein deficient, which is only seen in people who also suffer from caloric insufficiency.

In simpler terms, if you’re consuming an adequate number of calories every day, you’re with the 97% of Americans who are consuming more than enough protein.

On what, then, should we put our focus? The Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee has listed fiber as a nutrient of concern. (Protein is not on that list.) About 97% of Americans do not meet the minimum 31.5 grams of fiber per day. The average American consumes just 15 grams, less than half the suggested amount.

Why do we have this disconnect? Half of Americans believe that steak supplies a significant amount of fiber. Hopefully, you’re of the wiser half who knows food from animal sources is devoid of fiber.

Fiber is only found in plants. The richest sources are beans, vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Why is it important to consume enough fiber? Perhaps it could lower the nearly $80 billion spent on treatments and complications of chronic constipation? Beyond this common condition is also fiber’s ability to lower the risk of several cancers, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and obesity.

What are some ways to increase your intake? First, figure out how much you consume. There are several apps out there to help.

Second, go slow. If you go from 15 to 30 grams of fiber in one day your stomach will revolt as it’s not used to it. It’s advised to increase your daily fiber intake by 5 grams per week until you reach your goal. This is best obtained through consuming whole foods, because it’s not clear whether fiber supplements are beneficial.

For those food items with a label, you should follow the Five to One Rule. The resulting number from dividing the carbohydrates by the fiber should be five or less.

For example, look for the first ingredient to read “whole.” Then look at the grams of carbohydrate and grams of fiber. Let’s say you picked a loaf of bread off the shelf and it contained 30 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of fiber — 30 divided by 3 is 10 which is greater than 5 so it goes back on the shelf.

We all know we need to be eating more fruits and veggies. Recent media focus on protein and anti-carb has confused the basics. America’s obesity epidemic is not due to eating too much fruit and not enough cheeseburgers. I often will hear from patients who are worried about the sugar in fruit. They are forgetting about the fiber.

Fiber helps the sugar absorb through time instead of rapidly spiking blood sugar levels, which can cause inflammation. Other benefits are that high-fiber foods make us feel full, are low in calories and tend to be dense with nutrients, including protein. It’s a win-win.

Anyone who states they don’t have time for healthy snacks has never met an apple. I recommend an apple a day to keep me away from diagnosing you with high blood pressure or diabetes. Next time the subject of protein comes up (or perhaps this only happens to me?) you now have pearls of wisdom to share about what affects your health more — fiber.

Jill Powers, MD, FACP, is a board certified internal medicine physician with Grand River Medical Group in Dubuque.

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