Did you know fiber is also known as roughage? Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that travel through our digestive system. Fiber absorbs water along the way and helps to ease bowel movements.
Fiber is a very important conversation that I have with clients all the time. Do you get enough fiber? The odds are pretty good that you don’t get the recommended daily amount. Studies show that only five percent of adults consume adequate dietary fiber. The Institute of Medicine recommends at least 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men every day.
The majority of us are missing out on the health benefits from fiber including support for heart health, digestive health, and weight management.
Many nutritionally dense foods have much less fiber than you think. For example, an apple has about 3 grams and a slice of whole grain bread contains about 2 grams. So you can see that it takes some planning to make sure that your daily fiber content needs are met.
Don't try to fix your fiber needs in a day. Gradually improve. Any time you make a major change to your diet your body will need some time to adjust. Increasing fiber is best done in small increments because drastic change can lead to gastrointestinal upset. Attempting to improve it too fast can cause digestive upsets such as intestinal gas, cramping, or diarrhea. One approach may be to add one serving of fiber-rich foods every day for a week. See how your body feels and maybe increase to two servings the next week. You could repeat that as long as you listen to your body until you reached the desired fiber content level. Your best choice is a slow, gradual increase over time to help your system adapt and avoid any uncomfortable symptoms.
A key component to increasing fiber content is to also increase water as well.
Hydration levels and digestive comfort are closely related. The large intestine plays an important role in maintaining the body’s water balance so monitoring water becomes even more important. On a day when you don’t drink as much water as your body needs, the large intestine will compensate by absorbing more water than usual from the materials entering the large intestine. The end result can often leading to constipation. One of the benefits of getting an adequate amount of dietary fiber is to increase both the volume and moisture content of the material in the large intestine. This is beneficial because it supports the body’s ability to eliminate waste and promote regularity. However, increasing dietary fiber can only support regularity if you are well hydrated.
Exploring many different sources of dietary fiber is a major key.
There are a many different types of dietary fiber and each type has unique benefits. Some types of fiber can dissolve and thicken when mixed with water. This is a property that helps you to feel satisfied for a longer period of time after a meal. Oats, for example, are a a type of fiber that helps keep your appetite in check and can have benefits for heart health. Other types of fiber are called prebiotics and promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. You can maximize the benefits for your body by choosing a variety of fiber-rich foods.
Almost everyone can help their bodies by getting more fiber. Fiber rich foods support both healthy intestinal function and overall health in many ways. By keeping the tips in mind that I laid out, you can receive maximum benefits from getting the right amount of fiber for your body every day.