When it comes to staying regular and reducing bloat (and no one wants to be bloated, especially around summertime!), getting enough fiber in the diet is key. Not only does fiber help keep your gut healthy and well, but also it’ll fill you up so you end up staying fuller longer to keep weight, appetite, and energy levels in check.
However, while you might think you’re getting enough, you really may not be—especially if you don’t eat gluten or grains, as those tend to be incredibly high in fiber.
According to the American Heart Association, the average adult should consume at least 25 grams per day on a 2,000-calorie diet. However, 25-35 grams a day is a better goal. This number may change depending on activity level, age or sex, where for instance women under 50 years old might need less, with 21 to 25 grams per day, and men under 50 may need 30 to 38 grams a day.
A new study published in The Lancet, which looked at the results from over 250 prospective studies and trials from the last 40 years, found that eating between 25 and 29 grams of fiber per day is the best range for health and wellbeing. Such studies found that people who ate the most fiber had a 15 to 30 percent decrease in mortality and cardiovascular-related causes of death. So, let’s say it's pretty important to nosh on fibrous foods all day long!
And that’s not all—there are so many other reasons fiber is so important for healthy living. You better start loading up your plate with dried fruit and beans soon!
5 Reasons You Need More Fiber in Your Diet
1. It Improves Digestion.
“Fiber is good nutrition for a healthy population of gut bugs. A healthy population of gut bugs, in turn, supports immune function and optimal nutrient absorption,” says Suzanne Dixon, registered dietitian with The Mesothelioma Center in Orlando, Florida.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, your gut needs healthy bacteria in order to stay balanced and to keep the body well and nourished, and that fiber is what keeps your digestion smooth and efficient. It also keeps you regular, so you’ll prevent constipation and be able to alleviate bloating in the day.
2. It’s Great for Your Ticker.
Since high-fiber diets are shown to reduce cardiovascular disease, it’s a great nutrient for your heart. It also keeps cholesterol levels healthy, preventing them from elevating too much, explains Dixon. “Soluble fiber, in particular, can remove cholesterol from the bile as it is circulated through the liver and digestive tract. Then you excrete the excess cholesterol,” she says. Having lower cholesterol will promote greater longevity and keep your ticker running strong.
Beyond cholesterol, it also keeps blood sugar stable, which lowers your risk of type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well as helps you maintain weight effectively!
“Fiber blunts the glycemic effect of any simple carbohydrates you eat. For example, eating whole fruit with the fiber intact has less of an impact on blood glucose levels than drinking 100% fruit juice,” says Dixon. So, always keep the skin on fruit and load up on fiber from other sources like green veggies, legumes and beans.
3. It Fills Your Belly.
You know how you get those shooting “hanger” pains at 3 p.m. at the office? Well, if you included fibrous foods in your lunch you might not be starving come snack-time! Fiber keeps you satiated, so you’ll be less likely to mindlessly snack in between meals unless you haven’t eaten for a while and do need some added fuel.
“Because fiber blunts and slows glucose absorption, you stay full longer after a fiber-rich meal or snack. That helps people avoid overeating,” says Dixon. A good idea is to keep fiber-rich snacks on hand, like protein bars that contain a lot of dietary fiber, to tackle hunger when it pops up in a matter of minutes.
FitJoy protein bars contain 12-16 grams of dietary fiber.
4. It Lowers Risk of Cancer.
“The connection between high fiber diets and lower cancer risk is well established. Fiber most definitely decreases colon cancer risk and it also may play a role in reducing risk of hormone-sensitive cancers, such as some breast tumors and prostate cancer,” says Dixon.
Cholesterol and similar molecules act as precursors for the formation of estrogen and testosterone. If you remove some of those precursors, you have lower overall levels of circulating sex hormones, which in turn may reduce risk of cancers that are connected to elevated levels of estrogen and testosterone in the body, she explains.
5. It Banishes Bloating.
Because fiber helps you digest like a champ, it slims down your belly and fights bloating and water retention. When you’re backed up, you feel it for sure, but you also see it. And it doesn’t feel great one bit! Eating foods rich in fiber and drinking plenty of water will keep you comfortable and regular with ease.
Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, certified health coach, and author of 5-Minute Energy. She can't resist a good sample, a margarita, a new HIIT class, or an easy laugh. She writes for various magazines, such as Men's Health, Women's Health, SELF, LIVESTRONG, POPSUGAR, Allure, Health, Cooking Light, and more. Learn more about her on her website: isadorabaum.com.