We hear a lot these days about fiber—how it plays an important role in heart health, how it promotes good digestion and a healthy colon, and how it helps keep blood sugar levels in check to support weight management. But where exactly does it come from? And are we eating enough fiber in our daily diet? Here are 7 fast facts about fiber you may not know:
- It comes from plants. Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate derived from plant foods. Common sources include fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Meat and dairy products do not contain fiber.
- There are two kinds fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and breaks down in the digestive system, where it acts like a sponge to soak up toxins and waste.* Insoluble fiber (also called “roughage”) does not break down in the digestive system but helps move bulk through the intestines to promote regular bowel movements.*
- Most Americans aren’t eating enough. Leading experts recommend consuming between 20 and 35 grams of fiber daily for better digestion and health. But according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, the average American consumes only about 15 grams of fiber each day.
- Prebiotic fiber is good for your gut bacteria.* Prebiotic fiber sources such as acacia fiber, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks, onions, and asparagus help feed the friendly microbes in your digestive tract that support optimal digestive and immune health.*
- The Greek physician Hippocrates was a big fan of fiber. In fact, he was among the first experts to advocate a high-fiber diet for good digestive health—not to mention the originator of the Hippocratic Oath, which modern physicians still follow today.
- You can tell when you’re not getting enough. The signs of low fiber intake are easy to spot: infrequent and/or uncomfortable bowel movements are a good sign you may not be consuming enough dietary fiber.
- Adding more fiber to your diet is easy. Some of the best sources of dietary fiber are also the simplest to add to your diet. Try eating more non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits throughout the day.