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Why You Need More Fiber In Your Days

It's time we pay attention to what our grandparents have been on about for all these years.

January 19, 2024
Medically-reviewed and fact checked by Ryan Lester, PA-C

That one word we heard growing up that meant more to our grandparents and also had odd ties to Fig Newtons, Raisin Bran, and jokes about both that the adults would trade knowing glances over – fiber. For a good number of us, we wouldn’t look much into this until sometime in our 30s, when we began consuming whole books in the bathroom and stomach issues became a much bigger “thing” than they’d been in our prior years. For those of us who haven’t done our homework, this post will bring you up to speed.

What Is Fiber?

Found in plant-based foods, fiber is a remarkable carbohydrate that differs from other nutrients by passing through the digestive system largely intact — bringing a myriad of health benefits along with it. The two primary types, soluble and insoluble fiber, both contribute in novel ways to our health and well-being. 

Soluble fiber — which can be found in oats, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and select fruits and vegetables — dissolves in water, creating a gel-like substance in the colon. This slows digestion, imparting a feeling of fullness and in doing so, aiding in weight management. By contrast, insoluble fiber — found in fruit and vegetable skins, legumes, and whole grains — does not dissolve in water. It adds bulk to stool, acting as a brush of sorts in the colon to maintain regularity in the digestive system.

And the Benefits?

The benefits of a diet rich in fiber are many. For those striving to shed excess weight, fiber serves as a valuable ally due to its low-calorie density. More specifically, soluble fiber — with its digestion-slowing properties — extends the feeling of satiety. On top of that, it can support heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol levels, as well as contributing to a healthy microbiome, fostering gut bacteria crucial for digestion, immune system functions, and even mental well-being. 

Foods that are high in fiber, which are less energy-dense than their low-fiber counterparts, contribute to effective weight management. Also noteworthy is fiber's role in regulating blood sugar, which it does by mitigating insulin resistance (which lowers one’s risk of type 2 diabetes). The daily ritual of a regular bowel movement, facilitated by both soluble and insoluble fiber, is another key benefit.

How Much Fiber You Need

Keeping track of your daily fiber intake is essential for reaping its benefits. Both the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association advocate for adults to consume 25 to 38 grams of fiber daily (most manage around 16 grams per day, on average). The USDA suggests consuming 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories, which may be a bit more helpful as a rule of thumb.

Careful Not to Overdo It

While fiber is undoubtedly beneficial, overconsumption has been known to cause moderate discomfort, such as bloating and stomach aches. Most nutritionists recommend gradually increasing your intake until you reach 30 grams per day. Going above this threshold in all likelihood will not yield additional benefits, so it’s really not worth overdoing it for a handful of reasons.

The Best Sources of Fiber for You

Increasing your fiber intake can be done by being more mindful of including fruits and vegetables in your snacks or dishes throughout the day. Whole grains, such as bran, oatmeal, barley, and whole wheat can also net you a substantial fiber boost. Nuts and seeds, known for both soluble and insoluble fiber content, can be easily incorporated into daily snacks. Despite their reputation for causing flatulence, beans stand out as a quality fiber source. 

In cases where dietary sources fall short, considering fiber supplements, either soluble or insoluble, becomes an option to further support overall gastrointestinal health. Embark on this journey to elevate your health through the transformative power of dietary fiber, making it an integral part of your daily nutrition for a happier and healthier you.


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