Most people don’t get enough fiber, but its importance can’t be overstated. Here’s why you should include more fiber in your diet.
You’ve probably heard a lot about the benefits of fiber. However, you may be unsure of what exactly dietary fiber is and how it works to improve your health.
This guide reviews what dietary fiber is, its benefits, and how you can get more fiber in your diet.
What is dietary fiber?
Dietary fiber is a non-digestible component of plant foods. Because humans can’t digest these components, they are either broken down in the gut by gut bacteria or excreted in the feces.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber is unique because, in the presence of liquid, it swells and turns into a gel. This provides it with many unique benefits. Soluble fiber is found in foods like chia seeds, oats, beans, and barley.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, is rigid and doesn’t swell or change form in the presence of liquid. This bulky fiber also provides some unique benefits. Good sources of insoluble fiber include dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and beans.
For optimal health, most people need at least 25 grams of fiber per day. Unfortunately, most people don’t get nearly this much in their diet. On average, people consume about 16 grams of fiber per day, and approximately 95% of Americans aren’t reaching their daily fiber goal.
Benefits of fiber
Fiber has several benefits. Here are a few:
- Serves as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are food sources for the healthy bacteria in your gut. Although we can’t digest fiber ourselves, our gut bacteria can. Prebiotic fiber promotes gut health by helping beneficial gut bacteria to flourish.
- Softens the stool. Soluble fiber can help soften the stool, making it easier to pass a bowel movement if you frequently struggle with hard stools.
- Decreases digestive transit time. Fiber helps food travel through your digestive tract faster, decreasing your risk of constipation, bloating, and gas.
- Adds bulk to the stool. Insoluble fiber is not digested or changed in any way in the presence of liquid, so it adds bulk to the stool. This can also help relieve constipation.
- Lowers cholesterol. Soluble fiber, especially a type called beta-glucan, which is found in oats, can bind with cholesterol in your food and keep you from absorbing it.
- Promotes weight control. Some studies have found that people with adequate fiber intake are more likely to be at a normal, healthy weight than people who don’t eat enough fiber.
How to get more fiber in your diet
To get more fiber in your diet, be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
Many fiber supplements are also available that can be simply added to water. Most supplements are made of soluble fiber. However, if you choose to supplement, you should gradually make your way up to the recommended daily fiber intake. Suddenly increasing your intake of fiber may cause digestive issues.
If you’re interested in learning more about leading a healthy lifestyle, check out our Medlixr guides.