Less than half of American adults get the recommended amount of fiber they need each day. Research continues to show how important fiber is to our health.
Getting enough fiber supports healthy digestion, heart health, bowel regularity, stable blood sugar levels, and weight loss. A lack of fiber in the diet may contribute to stomach problems, abdominal pain and discomfort, or poor gut health.
What Is Fiber?
Dietary fiber isn’t just in supplement drinks like Metamucil or Benefiber. It’s found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. It’s the part of these plants that cannot be digested by the body and instead passes through. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber can absorb water during digestion. It can fully or partially dissolve in water and may create a gel-like material in the gut. This essentially acts as a lubricant for the digestive tract, making it easier for contents to pass through comfortably.
Insoluble fiber doesn’t change as it passes through the digestive system. It helps add bulk to the stool as it forms in the intestines, making it easier to move through the body. This type of fiber is especially helpful when you’re struggling with the regularity of bowel movements.
Why Is Fiber Important?
The benefits of getting enough fiber are well documented. The fiber found in fruits may help improve intestinal problems, prevent serious illness, and promote long-term weight management. Getting enough fiber may also help support mood and healthy aging.
Fiber helps support healthy cholesterol levels. It’s key to supporting most major functions that are central to caring for your body. A lack of fiber over a long period of time can contribute to illness.
How Much Fiber Do I Need Each Day?
Generally speaking, women require about 25 grams of fiber each day. Men require 38 grams. If you’re a calorie counter, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 14 grams per 1,000 calories consumed.
Keep in mind that this may differ depending on your age and health conditions. To know how much fiber is best for you, speak to your doctor or a registered dietitian who can personalize a recommendation to fit your unique needs.
While 25-38 grams per day may seem like a lot, focusing on increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables is a concrete method of increasing your fiber intake.
Rather than becoming hyper-focused on a specific number of grams, making small, realistic changes to your diet over time will help you build a lasting habit of eating a fiber-rich diet.
What Foods Are High in Fiber?
Here are some high fiber foods you may consider consuming more of to increase your daily intake, ranked from most fiber to least fiber.
- Avocado, 10g
- Raspberries, 8g per cup
- Pears, 5.5g
- Bananas, 3g
- Orange, 2.3g
- Artichoke hearts, 14g per cup
- Green peas, 9g per cup
- Broccoli, 5g per cup
- Brussels sprouts, 4g per cup
Other High-Fiber Foods
- Lentils, 16g per cup cooked
- Chickpeas, 12g per cup
- Chia seeds, 10g per 2 tbsp
How to Get More Fiber
By now you’re likely convinced that fiber is great for you, but maybe you’re wondering how to increase your intake. Here are some tips for getting more fiber into your meals.
- Start at breakfast. Get off on the right foot with your fiber intake for the day by incorporating fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber seeds (like chia or ground flax) into your morning meal. Add spinach or kale to scrambled eggs. Try adding sliced strawberries, oats, and chia or flax seeds to Greek yogurt. Add fresh blueberries to a bowl of oatmeal.
- Swap your sides. Eating out? Try swapping a side of fries or mashed potatoes for a mixed-greens salad or fruit cup. If you’re in the mood for something hot, try swapping for a carbohydrate source that offers more fiber, such as beans or steamed veggies.
- Rethink your snacks. It can be difficult to get the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables each day, but a great way to start incorporating them into your diet is through snacking. Baby carrots, sliced strawberries, grapes, or celery are great snacks to keep on hand or take on the go.
- Take it slow. If you’re starting to increase your fiber intake, the key is to start slowly and work your way up to the recommended amount (or your own personal goal). Increasing your water intake along with increasing your fiber intake is important as well to make sure you don’t cause intestinal discomfort. There’s such a thing as too much fiber, so it’s best to stick to the recommended amounts unless otherwise directed by a healthcare professional.
These are just a couple ideas to get you started. As you incorporate more fiber into your routine, you’ll be able to see what is realistic for you and your lifestyle.
Fiber is a key component of health. It has been shown to improve digestion, protect the heart, and support the bacteria that live in your gut. Although most Americans don’t get enough fiber, it’s possible to increase your intake by making a few small changes to your diet and lifestyle.
When increasing your fiber intake, it’s important to start slow and also increase your fluid intake. It’s a good idea to consult your physician or a registered dietitian before making changes to your regimen, particularly if you have a health condition.
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