Unfortunately, the answer for many Americans is yes, you should be eating more fiber. The average adult is only getting in about 15 grams of fiber a day. Meanwhile, the Institute of Medicine recommends that men up to age 50 should get 38 grams daily, while those over the age of 50 need 30 grams. Women up to age 50 should consume 31 grams a day, while those over 50 should have 21 grams.
What Is Fiber?
Dietary fiber is is the part of plant foods that our bodies can’t digest. There are two types of fiber, but most fiber-rich foods contain a little of both:
- Soluble fiber: dissolves in water, slows digestion and softens stools. It also aids in reducing LDL cholesterol. You’ll find soluble fiber in oats, barley, beans, lentils, peas, citrus fruits, apples, nuts and seeds.
- Insoluble fiber: promotes movement of stuff through the GI tract and increases stool bulk, both of which help regulate bowel movements. You’ll find insoluble fiber in whole grains, nuts, beans and vegetables.
Benefits of a Diet Rich in Fiber
- Healthy gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Fiber-rich foods support healthy probiotics — the beneficial bacteria that live in the intestines and keep them healthy. Fiber also regulates bowel movements and helps to prevent constipation and diarrhea.
- Immune support. Fiber helps clean and exercise the microvilli in your intestines so they’re strong and healthy and can in turn aid digestion and provide immune support.
- Weight maintenance. Studies show that the more fiber you eat, the less body fat you tend to carry. Fiber adds bulk to the stool and absorbs water, making you feel full longer. It’s also found in low-calorie, good-for-you plant foods.
- Blood sugar control. Fiber can slow digestion as well as slow the absorption of sugar from food. This helps control blood sugar levels.
- Reduced cholesterol. Soluble fiber plays a role in reducing LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream.
The Best Way to Get More Fiber?
Eat it. Your body was designed to digest food and will get more benefit from the nutrients and fiber in whole fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and beans than it will with a powdered fiber supplement.