Fiber

How Much Fiber Do You Need per Day?

Broccoli in water

Fiber is essential for boosting digestion, immunity, weight loss, and your gut health. It is a crucial part of a healthy diet, yet 95 percent of Americans don’t meet the recommended daily guidelines. High fiber foods are vital for a healthy weight loss diet and for overall health.

How much fiber do you need per day?

Like calorie intake, fiber intake can vary from person to person. According to the 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines, we must aim to get at least 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories we consume per day. The average adult woman who consumes 1,800 calories a day must strive to get at least 25 grams of fiber per day, while men who consume 2,200 calories a day need at least 31 grams of fiber.

Twenty-five grams of fiber is equivalent to seven apples, seven and a half cups of oatmeal, or 12 cups of broccoli. But we are not going to eat that much of the same food per day.

Fiber intake is modified for different age groups, as energy requirements vary at different life stages. Since it is recommended for children to consume fewer calories than adults, here are the following guidelines for recommended fiber intake per day for both males and females:

  • Children aged 1-3 – 14 g of fiber
  • Children aged 4-8 – 16.8 to 19.6 g of fiber
  • Adolescents aged 9-13 – 22.4 to 25.2 g of fiber
  • Teenagers aged 14 to 18 – 25.2 to 30.8 g of fiber

Most Americans aren’t getting enough fiber through diet. A 2008 study has found that the average daily intake was only 16 grams per day.

How does fiber help in weight loss?

It is common knowledge that people who want to lose weight are encouraged to eat fiber-rich foods since they are low in calories, and helps you feel fuller longer. Fiber adds bulk, slows digestion, and minimizes cravings, which is helpful for people trying to lose weight. The more full and satisfied you feel after eating healthy, fiber-rich foods, the less tempting it is to grab some unhealthy snack or dessert after a meal. By meeting your daily fiber requirement, you will most likely end up making better food choices overall.

Types of fiber

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel in the large intestine to help slow down digestion. It helps reduce blood sugar and cholesterol in the body. You can get soluble fiber from oats, nuts, seeds, and some fruits like apples.

Meanwhile, insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, but it attracts water into the stool, making it softer and easier to pass with less strain for your bowels. It helps move things along, preventing constipation. Insoluble fiber can be found from foods like brown rice, cabbage, and some dark leafy vegetables.

Fiber-rich foods typically contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Fiber supplements, nutrition bars, and other heavily processed foods aren’t your best bet when getting your dietary fiber. It’s not uncommon for makers of processed foods to appeal to health-conscious consumers by adding ingredients that boost fiber labels. However, consumers can be misled about the labels, so the FDA cracked down on manufacturers that sneak added fiber into their products to sell them as “healthy” food.

It’s best to opt for whole, plant-based foods that doesn’t only help you reach your daily fiber requirement, but also give you a well-rounded vitamin, mineral, protein and healthy fat boost as well.

How to eat enough fiber

The best strategy to eat enough fiber a day is to spread your servings across all meals and snacks. To increase your fiber intake for each meal, include oatmeal, quinoa, and barley to your menu. To increase it even further, add some fiber-filled mix-ins like chickpeas and chia seeds.

Here’s a sample menu that can give you 37 grams of fiber:

  • Breakfast – One serving of whole-grain, bran flake cereal (5g fiber), topped with half a sliced banana (1.5g fiber)
  • Morning snack – 24 almonds (3.3g fiber) with ¼ cup raisins (2g fiber)
  • Lunch – Turkey sandwich made of two slices of whole wheat bread, lettuce, and tomato (5g fiber), and orange (3.1g fiber)
  • Dinner – Grilled fish served with a salad made of romaine lettuce and shredded carrots (2.6g fiber), ½ cup lentils (7.5g fiber), ½ cup cooked spinach (2.1g fiber)
  • After-dinner snack – 3 cups popped popcorn (3.5g fiber)

You can make substitutions and replace low-fiber foods with fiber-rich alternatives. These are some examples:

  • A medium bagel (2.3g fiber) – 2 slices whole-grain bread (4g fiber)
  • 1 cup corn flakes (less than 1g fiber) – 1 cup raisin bran cereal (6.5g fiber)
  • 1 cup white rice (1.4g fiber) – 1 cup brown rice (3.5g fiber)
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes (3.1g fiber) – 1 cup cooked black beans (15g fiber)
  • 1 cup cream of wheat (1.7g fiber) – 1 cup cooked oatmeal (4g fiber)
  • 1 hot dog (0g fiber) – 2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter (2.6g fiber)
  • 1 ounce potato chips (1.2g fiber) – 1 ounce low-fat popcorn (4g fiber)
  • ½ cup cream-style corn (1.6g fiber) – ½ cup cooked peas (4.4g fiber)
  • 1 ounce jelly beans (0g fiber) – 1 ounce almonds (3.5g fiber)
  • 1 cup orange juice (0g fiber) – 1 fresh orange (3.4g fiber)

Can I eat too much fiber?

It is possible to eat too much fiber, especially if you’re taking supplements on the side. If you consume in excess of the dietary guideline, you will feel it. Consuming too much fiber can cause bloating, gas, nausea, discomfort, and even short-term constipation. It’s also vital to make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water to help promote optimal function in the body. Fiber needs to be pushed by water to help it flow through your system and keep your bowel movement regular.

It’s best to gradually increase your fiber intake to allow your body to adjust and minimize symptoms and get it from whole, natural sources rather than supplements.

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