As you walk down the aisle in the grocery store, it’s likely you’ll see some food packaging boasting about its high amount of fiber. When watching television, it’s likely you’ll hear a commercial about a food that is high in fiber. So, what’s all the hype about? Read on to learn everything you need to know about fiber, including how much you should be having each day.
What is fiber?
Fiber is a carbohydrate, but it interacts in your body differently than other ones do. Fiber can’t be digested by the body, so it goes through your system intact. It helps keep your body regulated by managing your hunger and your blood sugar. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can help lower your cholesterol and blood sugar, while insoluble fiber helps your digestive system by keeping you regular (1).
What foods have high amounts of fiber?
- Whole wheat
- Brown rice
- Split peas
- Whole wheat pasta
- Green peas
- Nuts (2)
How much fiber should you be eating?
The amount of fiber you need per day differs based on your age and sex. Women need between 21 and 25 grams of fiber per day, while men need between 30 and 38 grams of fiber per day. Kids need less fiber than adults. The amount they need increases as they age, but the general rule of thumb is that kids should be eating enough fiber to equate to their age plus 5-10. For example, a 5-year-old should eat 10-15 grams of fiber per day.
What happens if you don’t eat enough fiber?
If you don’t have enough fiber in your diet, there are a few telltale signs that might alert you. One sign may be constipation. Without enough fiber in your diet, your body may be having trouble digesting food, which then leaves you constipated. Another sign you need more fiber in your diet is if you are still hungry, even after eating a full meal. Fiber helps you feel full, so without it, you may not feel satisfied after your meals. You may not mentally attribute this sign to fiber, but fatigue can also be due to a lack of fiber in your diet. Since fiber moves more slowly through your body, it slowly gives you energy as it digests.
How can I incorporate more fiber into my diet?
If you don’t have enough fiber in your diet, it’s quite easy to start adding more in. One easy way to add more fiber to your diet is to switch out any refined grains for whole grains. Whole grains offer more nutrients, and fiber is just one of them. This is an easy switch that won’t change up your diet too much. Chia seeds are also a great way to add fiber to your diet. They can be sprinkled into just about anything, whether it be a smoothie, oatmeal, salad, or pasta. Another way to add more fiber to your diet is to start eating the skin off of your apples and potatoes if you don’t already. The skin of these foods contains a lot of fiber, so by starting to eat it, you can easily add a few extra grams to your diet (3).