Michelle MS, RD, LD
Many of us don't consume enough fiber. The USDA 2015-2020 Nutrition Guidelines recommend we consume greater than 25 grams of fiber per day, and for a generally healthy diet, 25-30 grams per day is adequate. The average fiber intake of Americans is only about 15 grams per day.
Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate, naturally found in plants, that moves food through our digestive systems. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that our bodies are unable to break down to use for energy. There are two different types of fiber, both with their own health benefits.
1. Insoluble Fiber. This type of fiber helps keep things moving through your gut by absorbing water. It helps keep you regular, and helps to prevent constipation. These fibers are found in whole wheat and whole grain products, vegetables, and wheat bran.
2. Soluble Fiber. This type of fiber can help to slow digestion and absorption by dissolving in water and binding with fatty acids. This can help to decrease cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. These fibers are found in a variety of foods, such as citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, barley, oats, and many vegetables.
The benefits of getting enough fiber include constipation relief and prevention, an adequate supply of energy, weight control, lowering cholesterol levels, and preventing certain conditions and diseases such as diverticulitis, cancer, and heart disease.
When increasing fiber in your diet, make sure you start out slow. Adding too much fiber into your diet too fast can result in painful cramping and diarrhea. Start slow with about 5 extra grams per week. You should also increase your water intake when increasing fiber to prevent dry stool, which would slow down gut motility and cause painful cramps and constipation.