I’m sure you’ve heard of how important fiber is, but do you know how much fiber per day your body needs?
This article takes you through everything you need to know about fiber, especially the amount you need and whether or not too much of it can be harmful.
What is fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plant food that the body cannot digest. While most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar during digestion, the fiber goes through the digestive system unchanged.
This fact may seem like nothing special, but it comes with many health benefits, including feeding your good gut bacteria and promoting digestive health.
Fiber can be classified into soluble and insoluble forms.
The soluble one absorbs water as it moves through the digestive tract to form a gel-like substance, while the insoluble fiber maintains its nature throughout the process.
How much fiber per day?
On average, the American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of 25-30 grams of fiber which should be obtained from food rather than supplements.
However, this amount is subject to change depending on different factors, including age and gender.
For instance, a woman under 50 needs 21-25 grams of fiber each day while a man of a similar age needs 30-38 grams. On the other hand, children between 1-18 years need 14-31 grams of fiber each day.
The USDA’s 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans further recommends a daily intake of;
- 28 grams for women between 19-30 years old
- 6 grams for men between 19-30 years old
- 2 grams for women between 31-50 years old
- 8 grams for men between 31-50 years
- 4 grams for women above the age of 50
- 28 grams for men above 50 years
Nonetheless, most people don’t hit this target, as most adults in the US get half the amount or 10-15 milligrams of fiber per day on average. This is attributed to the low consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Why is fiber important?
Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet for different reasons, including:
1. Promotes weight loss
When you’re trying to lose weight, one of the most important things you can do is reduce your calorie intake. However, reducing calories alone won’t be enough – you also need to burn more calories than you take in.
That’s where fibers come in – they help control hunger by slowing down digestion and releasing satiety hormones like leptin after meals. In other words, eating plenty of fiber can help you lose weight without feeling hungry all the time. So if you want to slim down but don’t know where to start, try incorporating more fiber into your diet!
2. It may prevent blood sugar spikes
Blood sugar spikes are short-term increases in blood sugar levels that can cause symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, hunger, and confusion.
When you eat fiber, it helps to slow down the digestion of food and can help keep your blood sugar levels stable. This is especially important if you have diabetes or are trying to manage your blood sugar levels on a regular basis.
In a study published in the journal Diabetes Care, researchers found that people who ate high amounts of fiber were less likely to experience blood sugar spikes than those who didn’t eat much fiber.
The study participants were given a food questionnaire to determine their intake of fiber. The results showed that people who ate the most fiber had an 18 percent lower chance of experiencing a blood sugar spike than those who ate the least amount of fiber.
Fiber also appeared to reduce the number of episodes of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) in participants with type 2 diabetes.
3. Prevents blood sugar spikes after a high carbohydrate meal
After indulging in a high carbohydrate meal, many of us experience blood sugar spikes that can lead to cravings and weight gain.
One study found that people who ate 25 grams or more of fiber every day before eating a high carbohydrate meal experienced significantly lower blood sugar levels than those who didn’t consume any fiber beforehand.
This suggests that adding fiber to your diet may help to prevent blood sugar spikes after eating high carbohydrate foods, which could potentially help you stay on track with your diet and lose weight in the long run.
4. Lowers cholesterol and prevents heart disease
Fiber, especially soluble fiber, is a simple secret to lowering cholesterol. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and body fluids to form a gel-like substance that helps trap cholesterol and eliminate it through stool. This prevents its absorption into the blood, thus lowering its levels.
A 2009 study published in the “Journal of Nutrition” found that people who ate more fiber had lower levels of bad cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Fiber also seems to reduce the risk for heart disease. A 2008 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate more fiber had a 42 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who ate less fiber.
5. Fiber relieves constipation
If you suffer from constipation, it can be a debilitating condition that has a huge impact on your overall well-being. Luckily, there are many ways to relieve constipation and improve your health in the process. One of the most effective methods is to increase your intake of fiber.
Fiber is an important nutrient that helps keep your digestive system moving properly, and by consuming more of it, you can help prevent constipation from occurring in the first place.
Other tips in addition to high fiber intake include drinking plenty of water and exercising regularly.
6. Lowers cancer risk
One of the major health benefits of consuming fiber is that it can help reduce your cancer risk. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who consumed more fiber had a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Another study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research found that people who ate high-fiber diets had a 20 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer. The study also found that fiber can protect against other forms of cancer as well.
Fiber is beneficial for many reasons, including its ability to eliminate toxins and other harmful compounds from the body and its role in maintaining a healthy gut bacteria population. All of these factors play a role in reducing your cancer risk.
7. It reduces inflammation
Anyone who has ever suffered from an inflammatory condition knows all too well the devastating effects it can have on your physical and emotional health. Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or infection and is responsible for things like pain, swelling, and redness.
Too much inflammation, however, can lead to a host of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and autoimmune disorders. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to reduce inflammation in your body without resorting to prescription drugs. The most effective one is consuming high-fiber diets.
Fiber plays an important role in reducing inflammation throughout the body. In particular, fiber helps to reduce inflammation in the gut, which is responsible for regulating our immune system.
When fiber reaches the gut, it feeds the friendly bacteria that live there, which in turn reduces inflammation throughout your digestive system. In addition, fiber helps to reduce inflammation in the joints and other areas of the body.
8. Fiber boosts the immune system
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that helps feed the good bacteria in the intestines, which in turn helps provide healthy intestinal flora. This helps keep the immune system functioning optimally.
When your gut bacteria are out of balance, it can lead to inflammation and other health problems. By eating foods high in fiber, you help to keep your gut bacteria thriving and improve your overall health.
Additionally, fiber can also help with weight loss and controlling blood sugar levels.
How to increase fiber intake?
To ensure you’re getting enough fiber:
1. Snack on fruit
Instead of grabbing potato chips or any other processed food for a snack, go for a high-fiber fruit such as pear, an apple, or berries.
Keep in mind that some fruits, such as watermelon, are low in fiber and may not be a good fit on their own, unless you combine them with other fiber-containing fruits.
Besides, fiber-rich fruits can keep you satisfied until your next meal.
2. Switch to whole grains instead of refined
Refined grains have been ripped of their fiber and will have no impact on your fiber requirements.
Some healthy whole grains to consume include whole oats, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, bulgur wheat, barley, and freekeh.
3. Include nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds, including almonds, walnuts, flax, and chia, are a great source of fiber and may promote your fiber intake.
They also contain other essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, minerals, and omega 3-fatty acids.
4. Eat avocados
Avocado is another excellent source of fiber you can eat at any time of the day. You can add it to salads, in smoothies, on toast, or eaten as it is.
5. Replace white baking flour with whole high-fiber pastry flour
These may include whole wheat flour and non-wheat flour, including coconut, soy, chickpea, hazelnut, buckwheat, barley, and almond flours
6. Include plenty of legumes in your diet
Legumes are a great source of fiber as well as protein, vitamins, and minerals. Best examples include beans, peas, and lentils.
You can incorporate legumes into your diet in various ways, including stews, soups, salad toppings, and dips.
How much fiber is too much?
The more you become aware of the benefits of something, the more you are likely to overdo it. The same happens when it comes to health and wellness. And since fiber is necessary for good health, one may think eating more would benefit them more, but that’s not true.
Consuming more than 70 grams of fiber daily, especially if you are getting started, can cause
- Abdominal pain
- Loose stools or diarrhea
- Intestinal blockage in those with Crohn’s disease
- It may bind to important minerals such as zinc, calcium, and iron, thus preventing their absorption
- Weight gain or loss
- Feeling too full
How to relieve the symptoms of too much fiber:
- Increase your fluid intake
- Reduce fiber consumption by eating lower fiber foods
- Increase your physical activity level
- Avoid packaged high-fiber foods
- Slow down when eating and chew your food thoroughly
- Eliminate fiber-fortified foods from your diet
- Keep a diary of your food intake to track how much fiber you are eating
- Avoid fiber supplements
Once you feel better, re-introduce small portions of fiber into your diet, then work your way up as the body adjusts. Again, don’t exceed the daily recommended amount.
Also, ensure you spread out your fiber foods throughout the day and not just in a single meal. And to enhance your fiber intake and function, consume a variety of different foods, including vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Final thoughts on how much fiber you need per day:
Fiber is an essential nutrient with numerous benefits, including improving digestive health, lowering cholesterol, regulating blood glucose, and promoting weight loss.
On average, an adult should consume 25-30 grams of fiber every day, while children between 1-18 years require 14-31 grams per day.
To ensure you’re consuming enough, include fiber-rich foods such as seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and grains in every meal, and consider whole foods compared to processed ones.
That being said, too much fiber may result in digestive problems among other issues. So ensure you’re sticking to the daily recommended amounts.
And in case you exceed your recommended intake, remember to drink plenty of water, avoid high-fiber foods for a while and engage in physical exercises.
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- Foods That Detox Your Body
- 7 Foods You Must Never Eat
- Health Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting
- How To Boost Cortisol Levels Naturally?
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