The Benefits of Dietary Fiber

If you live in the U.S., there’s a good chance that you need to eat more fiber. The average American consumes between 10 and 15 grams of fiber per day, which is about half of the daily recommended amount of fiber for adults.

Dietary fiber provides many health benefits. Aim for 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day, and try to consume a similar amount of fiber from day to day. Click To Tweet

What is dietary fiber?

Plants contain a substance called fiber. Dietary fiber, which is also known as roughage or bulk, is the fiber that you consume from plants and plant-based foods. Your body does not digest fiber—it passes through your digestive tract without being completely broken down.

There’s soluble fiber and insoluble fiber, and you need both for a healthy digestive tract. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, and insoluble fiber does not dissolve.

  • Insoluble fiber facilitates healthy movement through your digestive system. Whole grains, starchy vegetables, beans, and nuts provide insoluble fiber.
  • Soluble fiber can help manage cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber comes from sources like fruits, vegetables, oats, and bran.

What are the benefits of dietary fiber?

Getting enough fiber each day can help you maintain a healthy weight, promote good digestive health, and normalize bowel movements. It can even lower your risk for certain diseases.

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, a high fiber diet may help relieve chronic constipation, hemorrhoids, and irritable bowel syndrome. Fiber-rich diets can reduce the risk for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. Enough fiber can also regulate cholesterol levels, which is good for heart health.

Eating enough dietary fiber can also help you maintain a healthy weight. Most of the foods containing dietary fiber are good for your health: fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Fiber also helps you feel full and satisfied at meals, which helps prevent overeating.

How much fiber do you need each day?

The daily recommended amount of dietary fiber for adults is between 25 and 35 grams each day. Try to consume a similar amount of fiber each day. Instead of 60 grams of fiber one day and 10 grams of fiber the next, split your up fiber intake evenly over two days.

Nutrition labels can help you plan your fiber intake. If you work toward having fruit and vegetables fill half your plate and replace simple carbs with whole grains, you will naturally include more fiber in your meals. 

There are some things to consider when adding more fiber to your diet.

Add fiber gradually. Adding too much too soon can cause digestive problems such as gas, bloating, and cramps. Increase your fluid intake when you increase your fiber intake; plain water is a great choice.

Talk to your doctor about any GI symptoms you experience, especially if they do not go away. Your doctor may refer you to a gastroenterologist—a doctor that specializes in conditions affecting the digestive tract.