The benefits of fiber in the diet are well-researched and compelling. However, dietary fiber is still one of the most overlooked components of a healthy diet. Most people in the English-speaking world get far less fiber than is recommended, or they don’t get the variety of fiber required,
Is it Dietary Fiber or Fibre?
The terms dietary fiber and dietary fibre mean the same thing. The only difference is the spelling. The American population prefers the spelling fiber, whereas the English-speaking population from the UK or Australia uses the spelling fibre.
Why is Fiber Important?
Dietary fiber, or roughage as it can be known is a type of carbohydrate your body can’t digest.
Most other carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, but fiber isn’t. Instead, it passes through your digestive tract. Although the body can’t digest fiber, it provides numerous health benefits.
Fiber is important for both long-term and short-term health but the majority of Americans and Australians don’t get enough fiber every day.
Low Fiber Health Issues
When you consume too little fiber, your body may send you some warning signs. You may find yourself experiencing some of these health issues:
- Hungry soon after eating
- Weight gain
- Trouble losing weight
- High cholesterol
- Feeling bloated
- Feeling tired or sluggish
Longterm Fiber Health Benefits
The long-term benefits of consuming more fiber are even more compelling than the day-to-day benefits.
- Feeds your healthy gut bacteria
- Helps lower cholesterol
- Helps lower blood pressure
- Promotes regular bowel movements
- Helps you feel full for longer
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Prevents or reduces blood sugar spikes
- Reduces the risk of diabetes
- Assists in the prevention of colon cancer
- Improves your gut health
- Reduces the risk of diverticulosis
What Type of Fiber?
There’s soluble fiber, insoluble fiber, and then we have resistant starch. These are all important in the diet. Evidence suggests that a healthy diet includes a balance of these three components.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water & slows digestion helping lower glucose and blood cholesterol. Soluble fiber can be found in foods like oats, beans, apples, & citrus fruits.
Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. The fiber helps move your food through your digestive tract adding bulk to stools. Insoluble fiber is found in foods like quinoa, brown rice, nuts, and seeds.
Resistant starch aids health by feeding good bacteria in the large bowel, which improves its function and reduces the risk of disease. Resistant starch is found in legumes such as lentils and beans, cold (cooked) potatoes or pasta, unripe firm bananas, and whole grains.
How Much Fibre Do You Need
The amount of dietary fiber required in the diet will depend on the recommendations for your age and the country in which you live.
American Fiber Guidelines
American females are advised to consume 25 grams of fiber each day. Once they reach the age of 50 that requirement decreases to 21 grams per day. American males have a much higher requirement according to the Mayo Clinic, men require between 30-38 grams of fiber per day.
Australia & New Zealand Fibre Guidelines
Nutrient Reference Values for New Zealand and Australia recommend that females of all ages should consume 25 grams of fibre per day and males should consume 30 grams of fibre daily. Currently, Australians consume approximately 20 grams of fibre but only 5% of the necessary amount of resistant starch.
How to Add Fibre to Your Diet
- Consume 2 servings of fruit per day. Why not try leaving the skin on when eating apples, pears, kiwifruit, etc. as vital nutrients, fibre, and antioxidants are contained in the skin?
- Aim to eat 5 servings of vegetables each day. This will also keep you feeling full for longer.
- Adding legumes such as lentils to your weekly diet is a great way to increase your plant-based protein whilst adding fiber and resistant starch. As an added bonus legumes are also a cheap, budget-friendly health food.
- Swap processed snacks for higher fiber snacks such as vegetable sticks and hummus.
What Foods Are High In Fiber?
With a solid understanding of the benefits of fiber in the diet, it is time to look at the best high-fiber foods.
Top 5 Fiber – Fruits
1 cup raspberries – 7 grams
1 pear – 5.5 grams
Medium apple skin on – 4.5 grams
1 cup blueberries – 3.6 grams
Medium orange – 3 grams
Top 5 Fiber – Vegetables
1 cup pumpkin- 7 grams
1 cup green peas – 7 grams
1/2 cup sweet potato – 3 grams
1 cup broccoli – 5 grams
1/2 cup cooked carrots – 2.4 grams
Top 5 Fiber – Wholegrains
1 cup barley – 6 grams
1 cup quinoa – 5 grams
1/2 cup oatmeal – 2.5 grams
1 cup brown rice – 3.5 grams
3 cups air-popped popcorn – 3 grams
Top 5 Fiber – Beans & Legumes
1/2 cup black beans – 10 grams
1 cup lentils – 18 grams
1/2 cup split pea – 9 grams
1/2 cup chickpea – 8 grams
1/4 cup kidney beans 4 grams
Top 5 Fiber – nuts & Seeds
2 TBS Chia Seeds – 10 grams
1 oz/30g pumpkin seeds – 5.2 grams
1 oz/30g almonds – 3.5 grams
1/2 oz/15g pistachio nuts – 1.5 grams
1/2 oz/15g sunflower seeds – 1.5 grams
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Can you Have too much Fiber?
The short answer is no, you cannot have too much fiber in your diet. There is a tribe of hunter-gatherers in Tanzania that eat 100g of fiber per day. These people have a diverse and seasonal gut microbiome.
However, there are some important things to remember when you are increasing your fiber consumption.
- Increase your fiber intake slowly. Your gut needs to get comfortable with the changes and the gut bacteria need time to adjust and populate.
- Increase your intake of water as your fiber increases. Fiber will absorb water so it will need more as it transits your body.
FAQ Benefits of Fiber
Fiber is slow to transit the body and creates a feeling of being full. This can be mistaken for bloating at times. Also, additional microbial activity can cause extra flatulence initially as your body gets used to the new level of fiber. Failing to expel the extra “wind” can cause discomfort.
Yes, this is perfectly normal. As you are eating more fibre it passes through to the colon. Here the process of fermentation by the microbial fauna begins. One of the by-products of fermentation is wind.
If increasing your fiber is uncomfortable, slow down the rate you increase your level of fiber.
This may be because you haven’t added adequate additional fluids. Fiber requires a lot of moisture so you will need to increase water consumption.
In this case, supplements are not the answer, gut health depends on a wide variety of types of fiber. Regularly getting fiber from the same source is counterproductive.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
Have a Happy and Healthy Day