Pop quiz time: Can you name all the macronutrients? The big three – fat, protein and carbohydrates – are easy, but there are technically more, including water and fiber. Proper hydration is another topic for another day – this article is all about dietary fiber! Did you know that so many adults so rarely get enough of it that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans labeled fiber as a “nutrient of concern” – and not for the first time. With a whopping 95% of us not getting enough each day, experts call this the “fiber gap.”
Why does this matter? Well, fiber is only found in plants, from blueberries and oats to spinach and lentils. Nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes are all plants and all provide fiber – along with its many benefits.* This essential nutrient helps promote regularity, satisfy hunger and beat belly bloat.* When we skimp on fiber, we’re leaving all those on the table!
Keep reading to learn why we need fiber, why we aren’t getting enough – and why the foods we eat might need a little boost!*
Why We Fall into ‘the Fiber Gap’ – and How to Mind the Gap
Let’s talk about why we need to mind that fiber gap in the first place. Depending on gender and age, your needs will vary from 19 grams to 38 grams of fiber a day. As a reference, a cup of cooked brown rice delivers 3.5 grams and a cup of spinach doesn’t even hit one gram!
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans say that women need 28 grams from ages 19 to 50, while men need 38 grams during that stage of life. (Nutritional needs changes slightly after age 50.) The benefits of getting adequate amounts of fiber? You’ll help support gut health, mood, heart health and other aspects of health.*
Knowing all that plus the trinity of benefits we already discussed (to promote regularity, satisfy hunger and beat belly bloat), why would we ever consider falling short of our goals?* Plenty of reasons! Researchers cite our unwillingness to talk about going #2, as well as confusion about how and where to get fiber, misconceptions about how much we’re actually getting – and even trends in how we eat (like gluten-free, Paleo and keto diets).
Those diets are all lower in carbs but that also makes them lower in fiber, since, in whole food form, fiber is found in foods that also deliver carbohydrates. Fiber is a carb you don’t digest, and it delivers its benefits throughout the trip through your GI tract.
The foods and diets that are rich in fiber include plant-based and Mediterranean-style diets focused on whole, unprocessed foods. And that brings us to the #1 reason many people aren’t getting enough fiber: Eating a whole foods diet takes time, energy and know-how. It’s more work to prep a salad or three-bean veggie chili from scratch than to microwave a frozen meal that’s pre-portioned. When you never have time to sit down and eat a balanced meal, it’s hard to hit those fiber goals! Then, when we try to catch up and overdo it, our digestive system pays the price (paging VeggieGest™).*
No shaming or blaming here. We get it! Keep reading for tips on how to get enough fiber, even when you are short on time. First up, let’s review.
What is Fiber, Anyway, and How Do We Get It?
Fiber comes in different forms. The two most common ones are soluble and insoluble, and we’ll also talk about a type that offers special benefits for the gut microbiome and more.*
- dissolves in water and forms a gel-like barrier in the lining of the gut.
- helps the body absorb nutrients.*
- supports heart health and healthy cholesterol levels within normal ranges.*
- Found in: psyllium husk, oats, legumes (lentils and beans), green vegetables and some fruits.
- helps bulk up your stool, to speed up digestion (also called “roughage”).*
- Found in: nuts and seeds, leafy greens, whole grains, wheat bran and vegetables.
- indigestible carbohydrate easily metabolized by the microflora in the gut.
- Prebiotics are fermentable fiber that feed our beneficial gut bacteria. Prebiotics help maintain digestive health and regularity by feeding probiotics.*
- Found in: chicory root, pea fiber, green bananas, cooked and cooled rice and pasta, onions, garlic and supplements.
The Benefits of Fiber
Like all nutrients, fiber has its own special skills and benefits.
1. Supports regularity.*
This is the benefit of fiber that most people know: Fiber can help promote normal, healthy and comfortable bowel movements.* We get it. Bathroom visits are private matters – but insoluble fiber adds volume and bulk, which can make it easier to go. Diets rich in certain fibers promote GI health, including bowel regularity.*
2. Helps satisfy your hunger.*
Since fiber doesn’t provide calories but is filling, eating foods that contain fiber can make you feel satiated or full. This can help support your overall diet and manage hunger throughout the day.* When a meal contains fiber, it helps slow down your digestion so you feel full for longer.
3. Helps out probiotics.*
Probiotics are the good bacteria in your gut; prebiotics are their food. Consuming prebiotic fiber helps maintain a healthy balance of beneficial flora in the gut and gives your digestion a boost.*
What are Functional Foods?
You may have heard the mantra “food first” when it comes to nutrition. Functional foods help bridge the gap when we aren’t getting the recommended amounts of certain nutrients. For example, milk is commonly fortified with vitamins A and D, plant-based milk alternatives sometimes contain added calcium and other nutrients and juice can contain added probiotics.
Functional foods have been around since the 1980s, though breakfast cereals and other foods have been fortified since the last 1930s. They are simply foods that deliver a benefit or nutrient beyond their basic nutritional value. In the case of fiber, functional foods offer an alternative to gloopy, sticky and not-so-tasty- fiber drinks or supplements that increase fiber intake too much, too soon (leading to unpleasant side effects). That’s why we have a new, tasty way to boost fiber intake any time of day (for under 100 calories).
An Easy, Tasty Way to Boost Fiber Intake: Fiber Cookies
Enzymedica’s Fiber Cookies[link] promote regularity, satisfy hunger and beat belly bloat.* With 90 calories per serving, two cookies provide 5 grams of dietary fiber along with clinically studied probiotics and prebiotics.* These tasty bites of goodness for any time of day are expertly formulated to deliver three benefits in one.*
We offer two varieties – Harvest Oat and Blueberry – that are equally tasty and packed with the same fiber and other benefits. That includes MB40™ probiotics, shown in multiple clinical studies to help beat belly bloat.* The probiotic Bacillus subtilis is shelf-stable, so it stays potent at room temperature and you can take these with you on the go to help boost digestion.* According to studies, this probiotic demonstrated clinically significant reductions in bloating intensity, number of days with occasional abdominal discomfort, gas, bloating and duration of gas, compared with a placebo in a male sub-group of participants.*
We also include soluble corn fiber, a prebiotic fiber that helps promote the good beneficial bacteria in the gut.* Backed by clinical research, this fiber has been found to help support or maintain regularity.*
Here are 10 easy ways to savor these tasty bites of goodness, any time of day:
- Crave something sweet after lunch? Nibble on these for a (not too sweet) bite that delivers a boost of fiber!
- Crunch them up and swap them for the granola in your morning yogurt parfait. Bonus: Add some berries for even more fiber!
- Feeling snacky before dinner? Chomp on these to tide you over while you prepare a healthy, nourishing meal.
- Pack them in your carry-on or suitcase for trips where you can’t easily find fresh fruits and veggies.
- Savor them with your afternoon coffee or tea – they only have 90 calories, so it’s the perfect little bite.
- Serve them at breakfast to start working toward your fiber goals early!
- Slather on some nut butter and a sprinkle of dark cocoa powder for an after-dinner snack.
- Snack on them before bed to edge you closer to your fiber goal for today!
- Stash them in your gym bag or desk drawer for when you need just a little something to snack on.
- Take them with you when you travel to help keep yourself “on schedule.”