Fiber health benefits: why is it so essential?
There is no magic bullet when it comes to having good health, but fiber comes pretty darn close. This rugged, wholesome, indigestible carbohydrate may not be the sexiest thing on the market, but consuming it offers loads of health benefits and most of us are missing out!
The average American only consumes half the recommended amount.1 Diets high in fiber can significantly lower risk for hypertension, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and certain gastro-intestinal diseases. Fiber can also promote healthy blood sugar levels and is associated with lower body weight.1
Certain types of fiber, (called prebiotics) can also help feed the good bacteria in your gut. These good bacteria that naturally exist in your gut help you absorb nutrients and play a role in maintaining a healthy immune system.2
So how much fiber do you need? How can you get more of it? And is all fiber created equal? We’ve got answers to all your most pressing fiber questions.
The two types of fiber
There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Each works differently in your body and provides different health benefits. Most foods contain a combination of these two fibers but may contain higher amounts of one or the other.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and helps slow down digestion. It can help reduce bad cholesterol as well as prevent spikes in blood sugar and promote health gut bacteria (remember prebiotics). Foods like beans, oatmeal, flaxseeds, oranges, and brussels sprouts contain a high amount of soluble fiber per calorie and are good options. In general beans, seeds, and fruits are great sources of soluble fiber.3
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and moves through the digestive tract not broken down. Insoluble fiber is perhaps best known for its role as your poop cheerleader. Not only can it help prevent constipation, but insoluble fiber can help increase feelings of fullness and lower risk of diverticular disease (a painful condition that effects your colon and may increase risk of colorectal cancer). Whole grains and most vegetables contain high amounts of insoluble fiber.3
How much fiber do you need?
The American Heart Association recommends an average of 21-25g of fiber per day for women and 30-38 g for men.
To give you an idea of what that might look like, an apple has about 4.5 g of fiber (with the skin). A ½ cup of oats (uncooked) has 4 grams, and a ½ cup of black beans has 8 grams.4
What about fiber powders or supplements?
If you can, try to get your fiber through whole foods because then you will also get the added benefits of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that may be lacking in fiber powders such as psyllium husk. That said, since most American don’t get their daily recommended fiber, supplementing isn’t a bad idea.
Check out our apple pectin supplement that contains those prebiotics we were just talking about! Apple pectin can support colon health and your digestive system.
H2: tips for adding more fiber into your diet:
Add fiber into your diet gradually. Otherwise you may end up with digestive discomfort like gas or bloating. Start with an extra serving of whole grains (for example ½ cup of oatmeal, 1 cup of cooked broccoli, etc.) and then add from there. Watch out for sneaky marketing! Product packaging can make you think something contains fiber when it doesn’t. Read the ingredients list on the nutrition label and look for the word “WHOLE”. For example, Wheat bread may not contain fiber but Whole Wheat bread does. Grams of fiber is also listed on the nutrition label.
Drink plenty of water. This is important as a general rule of course, but even more important when you are adding fiber into your diet. Drinking water will allow fiber (particularly the soluble variety) to do its best work while preventing constipation or discomfort.
Customized personal vitamin packs
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- Probiotics: What You Need To Know. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm#hed1. Published August 22, 2019. Accessed February 19, 2020.Slavin J. Fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1417–1435. Published 2013 Apr 22. doi:10.3390/nu5041417
- A Soluble Fiber Primer – Plus the Top Five Foods That Can Lower LDL Cholesterol. Today’s Dietitian. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/120913p16.shtml. Accessed February 19, 2020.
- The Top Fiber-Rich Foods List. Today’s Dietitian. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/063008p28.shtml. Accessed February 19, 2020.