Why you should be eating more fiber

April 29, 2013

By Karlee J. Ausk, MD

The recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is 25-35 grams per day. Despite this, the average American consumes about 15 grams of fiber per day. You may have heard fiber is important, but read on to learn more about why it matters in your diet.

What is fiber?

Fiber is the portion of plants that is not digested in the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, it stays in the intestine, aiding in digestion and contributing to stool consistency. Dietary fiber is categorized into soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

  • Sources of soluble fiber: fruits, legumes, oats, and barley
  • Sources of insoluble fiber: wheat, rye, grains, and many vegetables

What are the health effects of fiber?

  • Decreased risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. This is the leading cause of death in the United States and a diet high in soluble fiber decreases this risk by 40-50%.
  • Decreased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and improved glucose control in people with diabetes on a diet high in soluble fiber.
  • Insoluble fiber is beneficial for many digestive diseases including hemorrhoids, diarrhea, constipation, and diverticular disease.

Is there a downside to a high-fiber diet?

Fiber intake can increase gas and bloating in some people. Starting slowly and increasing fiber intake gradually can diminish this effect. Fiber needs to be accompanied by plenty of water intake.

Tips to increase dietary fiber:

  • Start your day with a high-fiber cereal.
  • Read food labels.
  • Snack on nuts, fiber cereal, or fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Substitute fresh fruit instead of fruit juices.
  • Replace white bread/pasta/rice with the whole-grain alternatives.
  • Add legumes to soups, salads, and casseroles.