Fiber can feel so old-fashioned. People commonly associate it with boring bran muffins, powder supplements mixed into juice and staying “regular.”
But fiber is crucial for good health, said Tyler Florek, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix.
And most of us don’t get enough fiber in our diets. While most people believe they get the fiber they need, only 5% of Americans consume the recommended amount, reports the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
You should be eating 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That works out to about 25 grams of fiber per day for most women and 38 grams of fiber per day for most men.
Here’s what happens when you don’t get enough fiber in your diet
“Fiber is important for several reasons,” Florek said. When you don’t have enough fiber, you miss out on the health benefits it offers. Without enough fiber:
- You won’t feel full as long, so you’ll lose the weight-loss benefits you get from fiber. “High-fiber foods slow the speed at which your stomach empties. That makes you feel fuller for longer and can help you reduce your total calorie intake and lose weight,” Florek said.
- You don’t get the cholesterol-lowering benefits that come from fiber. Fiber helps you rid your body of bile salts that are made of cholesterol.
- You won’t feed your gut flora, which are the prebiotics vital for healthy gut bacteria.
- Your gut bacteria can’t build the short-chain fatty acids that can help prevent colon cancer.
- You might not have healthy, adequate bowel movements, since fiber adds bulk to your stool.
- If you have diabetes, you won’t have fiber helping to slow rises in blood sugar. So, it could be harder to control your blood sugar.
How can I get more fiber in my diet?
Florek said to choose vegetables, fruits and whole grains whenever you can. Some great choices are:
- Bran flakes
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat bread
What about added fiber or fiber supplements?
Reaching for healthy, fiber-rich foods is a better choice than taking fiber supplements. “Dietary fiber occurs naturally in foods. Added fiber and fiber supplements are taken from other sources and added to foods that don’t normally contain them,” Florek said.
Supplements may not provide the same benefits you get from food. And if you’re not getting enough fiber from healthy foods, you might not be getting enough of other important nutrients as well.
The bottom line
From weight control to a healthy gut to lower cholesterol, fiber brings a lot of health benefits. But most of us aren’t eating enough of it. Choose veggies, fruits and whole grains to boost your fiber intake.
To help build a healthy diet that meets your needs, talk to a dietitian. For a referral, visit bannerhealth.com.
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