If you’ve been hearing the word “fiber” thrown around a lot more these days, it’s for a good reason. Research is starting to unlock the benefits of daily dietary fiber intake, suggesting that a diet rich in some types of fiber may help to support healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels, as well as support healthy weight management.
Dietary fiber is available in two types: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. While other building blocks of food, like proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, are broken down and used by the body during digestion, dietary fiber is not digestible.1 In general, it stays mostly intact as it passes through the body.
Soluble fiber works to slow the movement of food from the stomach to the intestine by dissolving in water and turning it to gel during digestion.1 Some natural foods that contain a healthy serving of soluble fiber include fruits, vegetables, beans, and lentils.1
Insoluble fiber holds onto water and does not dissolve, which allows it to help regulate bowel movements.4 Some foods that contain insoluble fiber include wheat bran, nuts, and vegetables, such as cauliflower and green beans.1
While most of us know that fiber is an important nutrient, many of us just aren’t getting enough of it in our diets. So, that begs the question: how much fiber are we supposed to get every day?
How Much Fiber Do We Need Daily?
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that men between the ages of 19-50 consume 38 grams fiber per day, while older men, 51 yrs. + should consume 30 grams per day. The IOM also recommends that women between the ages of 19-50 years should consume 25 grams per day of fiber, while older women, 51 yrs. + should eat 21 grams per day of fiber.3 If you believe you’re getting under the recommended daily amount, add more fiber slowly, and increase fluids to prevent occasional constipation and bloating.
Benefits of Eating Fiber
Ensuring you eat enough fiber will help with bowel movements, both in regulating the frequency as well as maintaining the consistency of them.1,2 Bulky stool is easier to pass, which lowers the chance of occasional constipation. Fiber also helps you feel full, which can help manage weight.2 Soluble fiber also helps to increase healthy gut bacteria.2
Foods Rich in Dietary Fiber
Here are some foods that will help you incorporate more fiber into your diet:
- Whole grain breads that contain 2-4 g of dietary fiber per slice
- Raw fruits and vegetables (skin on, when possible)
- Lentil or edamame pasta
- Chia seeds
- Bran, sprinkled into soups, pastas, and baked goods
- Whole grain crackers
- Whole grain cereals
- Dried fruit
While you can always check the nutrition labels of your food to determine how much fiber you’re getting, explore the amount of fiber in some of the following popular foods to help you gauge how much fiber you can eat in a day.4
|Food4||Serving Size4||Fiber (in grams)4|
|Apple with skin||1 medium||5.5|
|Green peas, boiled||1 cup||9|
|Broccoli, boiled||1 cup choped||5|
|Whole wheat cooked spaghetti||1 cup||6|
|Popcorn, air-popped||3 cups||3.5|
|Lentils, boiled||1 cup||15.5|
|Black beans, boiled||1 cup||15|
|Almonds||1 ounce (approx. 23 nuts)||10|
Sources of Fiber: Food vs. Supplements
Fiber can be obtained naturally through the consumption of foods in the diet such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, however, often times Americans fail to get enough fiber in their diets. Adding supplemental fiber to your diet might be an option to help fill your fiber gap. Be sure to check with your doctor or another healthcare practitioner before adding any fiber supplement to your diet.1
- Dietary fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983. Accessed 2/24/2021. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- What’s the Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber? Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/whats-the-difference-between-soluble-and-insoluble-fiber/. Accessed 2/24/2021. Referenced text is highlighted in source PDF.
- Institute of Medicine. 2005. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.172226/10490.
- Chart of high-fiber foods. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948. Accessed 9/13/21.