Why You Should be Eating More Fiber

You know you’re supposed to eat fiber, but you still probably don’t eat enough. After all, you’re only human.

Ninety-five percent of American adults and children do not eat adequate amounts of fiber. Research indicates that 67% of adults believe they meet their fiber needs while only 5% actually do.

What is dietary fiber? 

A type of carbohydrate, fiber is essentially the part of plant foods your body cannot digest. It passes somewhat intact through your gut and out of your colon.

Fiber is often classified as either soluble — it dissolves in water — or insoluble — it doesn’t. When soluble fiber mixes with water and other fluids in your gut, it forms a gel-like substance that takes up stomach space, which makes foods with this type of fiber more filling.

Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool, stimulates intestinal movement to push it through your system and helps you stay regular. Cauliflower, artichokes, okra and whole-wheat flour are full of insoluble fiber.

Your body needs both types of fiber to help food pass through your system, slowing down the digestion and absorption of food so you get steady energy that lasts.

How much do you need? 

The Institute of Medicine recommends that men younger than 50 average 38 grams per day while women need 25 grams. Men older than 51 need 30 grams per day while women need just 21 grams per day. The daily general recommendation is 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed.

Lucky for you, beans aren’t the only magical fruit. You can find whopping amounts of fiber in vegetables and fruits as well as beans, including raspberries, chia seeds and avocados, making it easier than you thought to add more fiber to your diet.

Why do you need it?

Lose weight: Fiber-rich foods fill you up faster and keep you satisfied longer. One study showed that people who ate more fiber tended to be leaner overall than those who did not. Another study showed mice given adequate soluble fiber resisted gaining weight even on a high-fat diet.

Cut your risk of diabetes: A group of studies found that people who ate more than 26 grams a day lowered their odds of diabetes by 18%, compared to those who ate less than 19 grams daily.

Lower your odds of heart disease: Cholesterol is bound by certain kinds of fibers, which helps lower cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. For every 7 grams of fiber eaten daily, your risk of heart disease drops by 9%.

Reduce your risk of cancer: A study in the Annals of Oncology found that every 10 grams of fiber you eat is associated with a 10% reduced risk of colorectal cancer and a 5% fall in breast cancer risk.