Updated: Nov 2, 2020
If you're struggling with regularity, or your poop health could use some improvement, it's possible you're not getting adequate fiber in your diet!
Read on to learn more about fiber, the different types, how much you should be consuming on a daily basis, and a cheat sheet of high fiber foods to get you moving and regular!
What is fiber?
Dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate, and is mainly found in plants such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Fiber is the main component of a plant's cell walls (to put it simply), and is essential in maintaining digestive health.
Types of fiber
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. It's important to get some of
both, as they each provide their own set of benefits to the human body.
Soluble fiber is water-soluble (hence the name) and creates a gel-like consistency. Studies have found that soluble fiber can play a role in digestive regularity, improve micronutrient (vitamins/minerals) absorption, and control blood glucose (sugar) and blood cholesterol.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, and, as such, remains intact while moving through the digestive system, which has been shown to improve motility (keeps things moving).
Most sources of fiber contain both types of fiber, so in most cases, it's not important to focus on increasing one
source over the other.
Adequate fiber intake has been shown to improve cardiovascular health and symptoms of GI issues relating to IBD and IBS sufferers. Increased fiber intake has also been shown to improve blood cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and reduce blood pressure for individuals suffering from high blood pressure.
Consuming enough fiber also keeps us fuller longer, and when coupled with it's blood glucose stabilizing benefits, can promote fat loss when in a caloric deficit. Essentially, the satiety we feel from consuming more fiber, can make dieting easier.
So, how do you know you're getting enough? The easiest way is to track your intake for a few days without changing your diet. If you're consistently dropping below 15-20g of fiber per day, and you have irregular bowel movements, you're likely not getting enough dietary fiber.
Some symptoms of inadequate fiber intake include loose stools and irregular bowel movements. Other symptoms include, high blood cholesterol levels, excessive appetite, and even crappy sleep.
High fiber foods
Check out this cheat sheet of high fiber foods! Keep it handy if you're struggling with regularity or other GI issues.
Yes, excess fiber is a thing. However, in most cases, excess fiber is non-toxic (albeit highly uncomfortable).
Symptoms of excess fiber intake include constipation, diarrhea, bloating, excess gas, cramping, and marked reduced appetite.
Easy ways to add more fiber
Smoothies: Swap our your daily juice and have a smoothie instead! You will get all the benefits from the micronutrients, along with the fiber which will help you feel full (and actually absorb more of those nutrients naturally).
Add More Veggies: Add an extra serving (about a fist-full) of veggies to each meal. If you don't eat veggies at breakfast, you can start now! If your smoothies are mostly fruit and leafy greens, add some frozen zucchini or steamed cauliflower. They don't add any taste or flavor, but pack a nutritious punch!
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Slavin JL, Savarino V, Paredes-Diaz A, Fotopoulos G. A review of the role of soluble fiber in health with specific reference to wheat dextrin. J Int Med Res. 2009 Jan-Feb;37(1):1-17. doi: 10.1177/147323000903700101. PMID: 19215668.