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Fiber Matters: Why You Need More In Your Diet

Updated: Apr 17


In my years as a practicing dietitian, one thing has become abundantly clear: our diets often lack sufficient fiber. You may have heard that fiber is an important part of a balanced diet, but it's another thing to experience the positive impact of a fiber-rich diet on digestion, meal and snack satisfaction, weight loss efforts, and disease prevention.


So, what exactly is fiber? Simply put, fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate found in plant cell walls that your body cannot entirely absorb. It may seem counterintuitive to consume something that the body can't completely digest, but fiber plays a crucial role in our health. Fiber is commonly categorized into two types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber partially dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance that helps to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool, helping to ease digestion, especially for those prone to constipation. It can also help solidify stool for individuals prone to diarrhea. Due to fiber's role in supporting digestive health, high-fiber diets (≥30g/day) have even been linked to a decreased risk of colorectal cancer!


In addition improving digestive health, foods high in fiber add volume to our meals and snacks which help us to feel full and satisfied for longer periods between eating. Fiber slows down digestion (gastric emptying), promoting prolonged feelings of fullness and satisfaction between meals. As a result, focusing on increasing fiber intake can be valuable in weight management efforts.


So, how much fiber should we be getting in our diets? If your current diet is low in fiber, gradually increase your intake over several weeks to avoid uncomfortable symptoms such as gas, bloating, cramping. These symptoms can also be more prevalent if you are not drinking enough fluids as you are increasing your fiber intake. Please note, there are certain digestive diseases/conditions such as Crohn's disease, Diverticulitis, and intestinal obstruction where fiber intake should be limited.



Now that you have an idea of how much fiber you should be consuming daily, the next step is knowing where to find it. Fiber is naturally present in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Additionally, functional fiber (an isolated component of fiber) is often added to certain foods such as breads and cereals to increase their nutritional value. You might find them in the ingredients list as psyllium husk, inulin, pectin, beta-glucan, polydextrose, and cellulose, to name a few. Try checking the nutrition facts label and ingredient list of your favorite foods to assess their fiber content!



Dietary fiber is a key component in a healthy, balanced diet with a multitude of benefits for your overall health and well-being. By incorporating a variety of fiber-rich foods into your meals and snacks, you can support healthy digestion, increase satisfaction after eating, and enhance weight management efforts. Fiber is not only essential for keeping you feeling full and energized, it also plays a crucial role in preventing chronic disease. As you gradually increase your fiber intake, remember to drink plenty of water and pay attention to how your body responds. By being mindful of your fiber consumption and making informed food choices, you can pave the way for a healthier, happier lifestyle. To get started, take a glance below at the best high-fiber foods to incorporate into your diet!





References:

Collins, Karen. “Dietary Fiber: Fiber - Increase Amount and Variety - Today’s Dietitian Magazine.” Today’s Dietitian, July 2018, www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0718p11.shtml.


“How to Add More Fiber to Your Diet.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 4 Nov. 2022, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983.


Ioniță-Mîndrican, Corina-Bianca, et al. “Therapeutic Benefits and Dietary Restrictions of Fiber Intake: A State of the Art Review.” Nutrients, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 26 June 2022, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9268622/.


Institute of Medicine. 2006. Dietary Reference Intakes: The Essential Guide to Nutrient Requirements. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/11537.


“Wholegrains, Vegetables, Fruit and Cancer Risk.” WCRF International, 18 Jan. 2024, www.wcrf.org/diet-activity-and-cancer/risk-factors/wholegrains-vegetables-fruit-and-cancer-risk/.

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