For all the hype that carbs, protein and fat get – not to mention the endless debates over how much it takes to hit that “sweet spot” – it’s the other macronutrient where most people fall short. Only about 5% of adults in the United States meet their daily fiber recommendations. So many people overlook this beneficial nutrient that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans once again classified fiber as a “nutrient of concern,” and experts call this the “fiber gap.”
You’ll only find fiber in plants – from beans and oats to broccoli and strawberries – and it comes in a few different forms. But this nutrient is one that shouldn’t be ignored or restricted, no matter what kind of diet you follow. Did you know that fiber can promote regularity, satisfy hunger and beat belly bloat?*
Keep reading to learn why so many people forget about fiber, how you can bridge the gap and the tastiest new way to help hit your fiber goals each day!
The Forgotten Macronutrient and the Fiber Gap
Fiber is the only nutrient that actually doesn’t get broken down by the gut – and it contains zero calories. Women ages 19 to 50 should aim to get about 28 grams daily, while men need 38 grams, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. (Your nutritional needs changes slightly after age 50.) Consuming adequate amounts of fiber can help support heart health, gut health, mood and more.*
One reason why people might ignore fiber (or be hesitant to think about it) is because of its role in supporting regularity. Yes, going #2 isn’t something we want to think or talk about very often. But guess what? Regularity can mean you don’t have to think or talk about it very often (because BMs become NBD).
In whole food form, fiber is found in foods that also deliver carbohydrates. That’s because fiber is actually a carb that your body can’t digest, so it passes right on through, bestowing benefits along the way.
Diets that are rich in fiber score high in benefits for mind and body – from the Mediterranean diet to a plant-based one. But those diets are also based on whole foods, which require time and energy to prepare and consume. In today’s busy modern world where we rarely get to slow down, let alone eat a balanced meal while sitting down at a table, it can be a challenge to consume enough fiber. But we’ll offer some tips to help you try your hardest to meet your fiber goals.
Types of Fiber and How to Find Them
There are two basic forms of fiber, soluble and insoluble, along with another category that offers its own special benefits for the gut microbiome and other aspects of health.
- This fiber dissolves in water, which forms a gel-like barrier in the lining of the gut. Soluble fiber helps the body absorb nutrients. It also supports heart health and healthy cholesterol levels within normal ranges.*
- Sources include: psyllium husk, oats, legumes (lentils and beans), green vegetables and some fruits.
- This is the type of fiber that helps to bulks up your stool, to speed up digestion. You might hear it called “roughage.”
- Sources include: nuts and seeds, leafy greens, whole grains, wheat bran and vegetables.
- Fermentable fiber is a type of indigestible carbohydrate that is easily metabolized by the microflora in the gut.
- Prebiotics are a type of fermentable fiber that serves as food for the good bacteria in our gut. By feeding probiotics, prebiotics help maintain digestive health and regularity.*
- Sources include: chicory root, pea fiber, green bananas, cooked and cooled rice and pasta, onions, garlic and supplements.
The Top 3 Things to Know About Fiber
Fiber is a secret weapon for your digestive happiness. Zero calories yet filling, with its own superpowers, there’s nothing quite like it. Here are the top three takeaways about fiber:
Fiber helps you keep it regular.*
Perhaps the best-known benefit of fiber is its ability to help promote normal, healthy and comfortable bowel movements.* We know: No one wants to think about it, but adding bulk and volume to stool with insoluble fiber promotes ease when nature calls.
Eating patterns that are high in certain fibers can promote bowel regularity and other aspects of GI health.*
Fiber helps satisfy your hunger.*
Fiber is filling but has no calories, so it promotes a feeling of satiety or fullness. This can help support your overall diet and manage hunger throughout the day.* Think of fiber as pumping the brakes after you eat, so that you feel fuller for longer.
Fiber helps support the work of probiotics.*
Prebiotic fiber delivers the food that probiotics need to maintain a healthy balance of beneficial flora in the gut.* This helps give your digestion a boost.*
21 Simple Tips to Get More Fiber in Your Diet
Hitting your fiber goals each day might seem intimidating at first. Follow these tips to add more to each meal and snack. This list of foods that provide fiber may also help!
- Choose whole grains whenever possible. Refined flours (aka “white” flours) have had their bran removed, resulting in a smoother texture but little to no fiber. Instead, choose whole-wheat flour and pasta, brown rice and other whole grains, like bulgur, spelt and barley.
- Opt for steel-cut or rolled oats over instant ones. Consider adding a spoonful of wheat germ or oat bran into your morning oatmeal.
- Ask for a whole-wheat or corn tortilla instead of white flour ones. Or choose lettuce cups or a salad instead.
- Swap sugary cereals for high-fiber ones. If you really can’t give up your favorite fruity cereal, mix the two.
- Snack on raw vegetables like cucumbers, carrots and jicama, with hummus or guacamole. Yes, avocados also provide fiber!
- Stir chopped kale, arugula or spinach into soups, stews and pasta sauces.
- Mix shredded beets, carrots and zucchini or minced onions and peppers into burgers and meatballs.
- Add beans and legumes to meals – even ones that contain meat. Drain and rinse canned ones, then use on salads, in soups and in casseroles.
- Roast sheet pans full of colorful root vegetables. From potatoes and yams to beets and carrots, these make a simple and tasty side. (And eating precooked, cooled and reheated potatoes boosts their resistant starch – aka fermentable fiber.)
- Stir pumpkin puree into oatmeal, sauces and smoothies.
- Sprinkle chia seeds, ground flax seed and hemp seeds on yogurt or acai bowls.
- Add berries on the side of meals or mix them in to oatmeal or yogurt.
- Snack on nuts and seeds. Choose unsalted when possible.
- Aim to eat a salad once a day.
- On road trips, stop at a grocery store to build your own salad in the produce section. These salad bars are often cheaper than a restaurant!
- Choose whole fruit over juices whenever possible.
- Mix chia seeds with unsweetened vanilla almond milk, protein powder and cocoa for a tasty “pudding.”
- Top salads with chopped nuts instead of croutons.
- Puree white beans or cashews into sauces and soups instead of cream or milk.
- Keep the skins on fruits and vegetables whenever possible – they contain the most fiber in many cases!
- Keep Enzymedica’s new Fiber Cookies[link] close at hand when you need to add more fiber to your day!*
The Tastiest Way to Boost Fiber Intake: Fiber Cookies
Enzymedica’s Fiber Cookies are expertly formulated to 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 deliver three benefits in one.*
Available in two varieties – Harvest Oat and Blueberry – the Fiber Cookies include MB40™ probiotics, which have been shown in multiple clinical studies to help beat belly bloat.* The probiotic Bacillus subtilis is shelf-stable, meaning its potency is retained at room temperature. It helps boost digestion and, in studies, 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.*
The soluble corn fiber included in the Fiber Cookies is backed by clinical research, which found it helps support or maintain regularity.* It is also a prebiotic fiber that helps promote the good beneficial bacteria in the gut.*
Here are our favorite ways to savor these tasty little bites:
- Paired with a healthy breakfast to get a jump-start on fiber goals.
- Alongside a midmorning latte or cup of tea for a snack with only 90 calories.
- After lunch for a boost of fiber and a little something (that’s not so) sweet.
- Before dinner when you want to have a small nibble while prepping your meal.
- In place of dessert as a final push toward your fiber requirement for the day.
- Stash them in your work bag for those business trips when you’re lucky to eat a plant all week.
- Keep them in your purse for trips back home where veggies and healthy eats are a rare sighting.
- Take these on vacations – from road trips to cruises – to keep yourself on schedule no matter the time zone.
- Crumble them on a yogurt (plant-based or dairy) at breakfast.
- Slather them with peanut butter or your favorite nut butter at snacktime.
- Pair them with a square of good chocolate for dessert.