Fiber is awesome. But what is it, and why do we need it? According to the Mayo Clinic, “Dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, includes the parts of plant foods your body can’t digest or absorb.” They also state that a high fiber diet has many benefits, including:
- Normalizes bowel movements
- Helps maintain bowel health
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Helps control blood sugar levels
- Aids in achieving a healthy weight
While the “healthy weight” point might seem a little far-fetched, I’d wager that it has a lot to do with satiety. To elaborate, high-fiber foods tend to keep us fuller longer. So the more high-fiber foods we include in our diet, the more satisfied we’ll probably feel — maybe even for less calories. Another bonus to increasing our fiber intake is that foods that are high in fiber tend to be those that provide a lot of other nutrients as well.
So, how much fiber do we need? A quick Google search resulted in my finding a couple of different guidelines. First, the Institute of Medicine recommends 38 grams per day for men ages 19 to 50 (30 grams after 50) and 25 grams per day for women ages 19 to 50 (21 grams after 50). I also saw a guideline of 14 grams per 1,000 calories consumed, though I’m not certain of the source for that one. In any case, it’s probably safe to say that many of us could use a little more fiber in our lives.
But don’t worry if it feels daunting to try to consume that much. If you’re not used to eating much fiber, trying to suddenly jump up to a large amount is a big change. Plus, too much too soon may not agree with your gut. So start slow. Even small improvements are great.
Maybe you could add some fruit or veggies to a meal where you previously wouldn’t have had any? Would you like eating fruits and veggies as snacks? Or maybe you could pick a whole grain instead of a more processed one? It doesn’t have to be every meal, every time. But little changes really do add up over the course of a day.
Okay, okay, so fiber is pretty cool…but where does it come from? The list of foods in this picture are my favorite sources of fiber. This should give you a good start, though it’s not a comprehensive list by any means.
When in doubt, keep it simple. Most fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are going to have a good amount of fiber. Even avocados and nuts have a respectable amount (though watch the serving size because they’re pretty calorie-dense). What are your favorites?