Health Benefits of a Fiber-Full Diet

Photo by artisteer/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by artisteer/iStock / Getty Images

Most of us know the nutritional basics: eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats for a balanced and healthy diet. One important factor, however, doesn’t always get the attention it deserves: fiber.

Fiber is plant matter that cannot be digested by human enzymes, which causes it to move through the entire digestive system with much of it being excreted. Fiber nevertheless provides a variety of key health benefits:

-Promotes regularity and reduces the incidence of constipation.

-Prevents hemorrhoids.

-Reduces risk of diverticulosis (when a small bulging sac pushes outward from the colon wall, which can   become infected or inflamed).

-Slows the rate of digestion.

-Promotes the feeling of fullness, thus aiding in weight management.

-Promotes the absorption of important vitamins and minerals.

-Prevents rapid insulin spikes.

-Reduces risk of heart disease.

-Lowers blood cholesterol levels by absorbing cholesterol molecules and shuttling them out of the body.

-Prevents and manages type II diabetes.

-Protects against colon cancer.

-Promotes gut health by supporting a gut microbiome filled with “good” gut bacteria.

How much fiber do you and your children need?

The American Heart Association suggests the average adult should aim to consume at least 25-30 grams of fiber each day from a variety of foods. For reference, the typical American adult only consumes an average of 15 grams of fiber each day.

Children do not require as much fiber as adults do. Too much fiber in children can cause them to feel full before their energy needs have been met, and can cause malnutrition.  If you ever have any concerns in regards to your child’s health or wellbeing, consult a pediatrician immediately.

For children, the Dietary Reference Intake provides the following recommendations:

1-3 years old: 19 grams of fiber per day

3-8 years old: 25 grams of fiber per day

9+ years old: at least 26 grams of fiber per day

Foods High in Fiber:

-Whole grains, such as whole wheat and brown rice.

-Oatmeal

-Bran cereals

-Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, brussel sprouts)

-Fresh “crunchy” vegetables (celery, carrots, greens)

-Fresh or frozen fruit (apples, plums, berries)

-Legumes (beans, peas, lentils….etc.).

Tips for Incorporating More Fiber Into Your Diet

If you are thinking of incorporating more fiber into your diet, fantastic!  Here are a few tips to help you get started :

-Increase fiber intake slowly. Start with just one or two servings of additional fiber-rich foods each day, and increase from there.  

-With fiber, simultaneously increase fluid consumption. As you consume more fiber, increase consumption of water to prevent fluid-retention and uncomfortable bloating.

-Try a variety of fiber-rich foods to promote a well-rounded diet.