Why you need fiber in your diet and how to follow up
By Barbara Sherwood, MS, RDN
Feb 21, 2018
Updated Oct 25, 2023
5 min read
You’ve heard it before: You need to eat more fiber. Whether you heard it from your doctor or your mother, they’re probably right. The average American isn’t getting enough fiber. After all, fiber is usually found in whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, which you won’t find in fast food menus and most prepackaged foods.
But you can improve your health and your diet by knowing how fiber benefits your body, how much you need to eat, and how you can get more into your daily meals and snacks.
Fiber is found in plant foods. In most plants, there’s some part of the plant your body can’t digest or absorb. This is called dietary fiber. Because fiber isn’t digested by your body, it passes through your digestive system and out your body relatively “whole.” Most plant foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, but forms a gel-like substance. It’s effective in helping lower your cholesterol and glucose levels. On the other hand, insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. Because insoluble fiber is bulky, it helps move your food through your digestive track. Which helps with constipation or irregular stools. For the greatest health benefits, you should aim to eat a variety of high-fiber foods that include both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Sure, you’ve been told to eat more fiber. It’s healthy, after all. But do you know the benefits of including enough fiber in your diet on a daily basis? Here are the benefits of a diet rich in fiber:
You’re committed to eating more fiber. But how much do you need? The American Diabetic Association recommends healthy adult women eat at least 25 grams of fiber daily and healthy adult men at least 38 grams. Unfortunately, if you’re anything like the average American, you’re only getting about 15 grams of fiber daily, which leaves room for improvement.
Eating more fiber doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, you just need to be more aware of your dietary intake and concentrate on eating more whole foods. Try these tips:
Eating more fiber can be challenging, so you might be tempted to keep eating your regular diet and just add a fiber supplement. Supplements are quick and easy; you can use them daily with little planning, and no matter how well you eat you may still need a fiber supplement to combat digestive issues. But whenever possible, try to get your dietary fiber through fresh, whole foods. A fiber supplement doesn’t contain all the nutrients whole foods do. Which means you’ll be missing out on some amazing health benefits if you only take a supplement.