Most people are consuming diets that are too low in fiber, which is a shame. They miss out on the significant health benefits of consuming more fiber.
The average adult should be consuming about 32 grams of fiber daily… yet most eat only 10 to 15 grams. That’s less than half the optimal amount. In fact, less than 3% of Americans consume the optimal amounts.
“Current fiber intakes are alarmingly low, with long-term implications for public health related to risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, certain gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, and the continuum of metabolic dysfunctions including prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.”
– The Journal of Nutrition
Fiber Helps You Lose Weight, And Keep It Off
When you consume fiber, especially soluble fiber, you’ll feel full sooner, and for a longer period of time. Soluble fiber soaks up lots of water and forms a thick gel in your stomach and digestive tract. You’ll digest slower and it will take you longer to feel hungry again.
You’ll also produce less of the hormone ghrelin, which again will cause you to feel less hungry. Increasing fiber will also help regulate blood sugar, which can reduce food cravings.
Sources of soluble fiber include fruits (apples are excellent sources!), vegetables, oats and legumes such as beans and lentils.
Plenty of fiber and water in your diet is the best way to keep your elimination regular and comfortable. Increasing your intake of insoluble fiber is very effective for reducing constipation. This type of fiber, also known as roughage, passes through your digestive system without breaking down. It’s found in whole grains, some seeds such as chia or quinoa, bran, and some fruits and vegetables. Strawberries, cabbage, apples and legumes are sources of insoluble fiber. Many root vegetables also contain this type.
Fiber Helps With IBS
Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms can sometimes be relieved with an increased intake of fiber.
More Fiber Can Help Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, try adding more fiber to your diet. Increasing your intake is a helpful step to get your cholesterol under better control.
Supports Good Bacteria
If you’re taking probiotics (and it’s a great idea to do so as more and more research shows the benefits), adding more fiber helps feed the beneficial bacteria you’re trying to increase.
So by all means, take a probiotic or add yogurt and fermented foods to your diet, and then feed the helpful bacteria by eating more fiber.
Fiber has more benefits than we can address in a short article, but a couple more notable ones are that it can help reduce heart disease, and can be beneficial for hypothyroid conditions. Talk to your doctor for more information if these conditions effect you.
Fiber Supplements Are An Option
Your best bet for increasing your intake is real food, but if you are crunched for time you may find that supplements are easier to manage. They’re available as capsules, powders and liquids. You can also try adding ground flax seed or other natural fiber supplements to other foods you are eating or drinking.
Tips For Increasing Your Intake
Check with your doctor – adding fiber can be tricky, especially when you are on medications, as it can absorb some of your prescriptions. Be sure to take them at least an hour before or two hours after a dose of fiber (or high-fiber meal). If you are celiac, be aware that some fiber supplements may contain gluten.
Don’t overdo it – increase your fiber consumption gradually to give your digestive system time to adjust. Try to have a little with each meal, rather than a large dose once daily.
Drink lots of liquids – be sure to drink plenty of water so that the fiber you’re consuming travels comfortably through your system.