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, 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 and 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:
- It aids weight loss and helps you maintain a healthy weight over time
- It may prevent blood sugar spikes after a high carbohydrate meal
- It’s effective in regulating blood glucose in diabetes
- It can lower cholesterol and lower the risk of developing heart disease
- It can relieve constipation.
- Fiber may lower your risk of certain cancers such as colorectal cancer, the third leading cause of death in the world.
To fully experience these benefits, it’s good to eat a wide range of foods instead of relying on a single source.
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, 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 fiber, 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 fiber intake, remember to drink plenty of water, avoid high fiber foods for a while and engage in physical exercises.
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