Fiber is all the rage these days, and for good reason! Fiber is great for boosting digestion, weight loss, immunity, and your microbiome—but the vast majority of us don’t get enough. Unfortunately, 95 percent of Americans miss the mark on this vital nutrient and typically consume less than half of the standard daily recommendation.
How Much Fiber Do I Need?
Like calories, our fiber needs can vary from person to person for staying regular, managing our weight, and keeping our gut health in tip-top shape. We found a little-known secret in our nation’s current Dietary Guidelines that show we should aim for at least 14g fiber for every 1,000 calories we consume in a day. For example, a female who eats around 1,800 calories per day should strive for at least 25g of fiber per day, while men who consume around 2,200 calories per day need at least 31. You don’t have to stop there, though!
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics actually doesn’t limit our fiber intake, as research has yet to find an amount of fiber that can cause adverse health effects. And since the Academy strongly associates fiber intake with a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and death in general, it sounds like the more fiber the better! But, you should know that not all fiber is created equal.
The Type of Fiber You Consume Matters
Added fiber in the form of nutrition bars, supplements, and other functional foods isn’t your best bet when it comes to boosting your intake, as research shows you’re better off consuming fiber where it is naturally occurring. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and seeds are all good or excellent sources of fiber—and they have a wide range of other health benefits as well. Opting for more of these whole, plant-based foods will not only help you reach your daily fiber goals, but give you a well-rounded protein, healthy fat, vitamin, and mineral boost, too!
How to Get More Fiber in Your Diet
Fiber can only come from whole, plant-based foods like the ones mentioned above, so opting for vegan, vegetarian, or even just vegetable-heavy meals can make a major difference. Try adding a handful of berries to your morning oatmeal, swapping a veggie sandwich in place of your turkey and cheese at lunch, or serving a delicious side salad with your weeknight dinners.
Can I Eat Too Much Fiber?
You should be careful going fiber-crazy if your body isn’t used to eating very much. It might be best to slowly increase your fiber intake instead of attempting to double your consumption all at once. Consuming a lot of fiber can cause short-term constipation, bloating, and gas if your body isn’t used to it—some of the very things you are likely trying to avoid by upping your intake!
It’s also extremely important to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water each day to help promote optimal function in your body. Fiber needs water to help it flow through your system and keep you regular. Additionally, it’s a lot more difficult to overdo it on the fiber or experience negative side effects when you’re eating it in its natural form, so load up on those fruits and veggies!