Everyone knows that in order to maintain good health, you need to eat a substantial amount of fiber each day. The daily recommended dose in the U.S. by the American Heart Association is set to 25 to 30 grams, but the current average consumption is only about 15 grams. Many health and fitness professionals also believe this recommendation is on the low side, meaning that most Americans are getting nowhere near the amount of fiber they need.
What does fiber do?
Fiber lowers blood cholesterol, controls blood sugar level, and increases the weight of your faeces which can help to make your faecal matter more solid and easier to pass. However, for most people, it will not speed up their trips to the bathroom. This tends to depend on stress, exercise and sleep alongside diet. If you think you’re eating enough fiber, but not frequently visiting the bathroom, then it may be more than what’s on your plate.
Types of Fiber
All fiber cannot be broken down and so, when it travels through the digestive tract, it helps to push out all the food we’ve eaten. However, there are actually two different types of fiber and understanding each one can make all the difference when it comes to bowel health.
Insoluble fiber: This is what’s known as the ‘hard’ fiber that gives plants its appearance and structure. This type of fiber does not dissolve in water which is why it can cause discomfort for some. Common sources of this type of fiber are wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains.
Soluble fiber: This is the gooey, stodgy form of fiber that is most obvious in products like cooked oats. Soluble fiber forms a gel that helps to push and slide fecal matter out. You can find soluble fiber in foods such as oatmeal, legumes, and beans.
How do I increase my fiber intake?
The best way to ensure you meet the recommended intake of fiber is to focus your diet on whole, natural foods. Things such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are all fantastic sources of both types of fibre. As long as you eat a range of foods and maintain variety with your diet, then you’ll get a healthy balance of both types.
Soluble fiber tends to be easier on the stomach than insoluble. So, if you find that certain high-fibre foods are causing you trouble, then focusing on foods that are high in soluble fibre can really help. Alongside this, cooking foods can make the fibre turn from insoluble to soluble. For instance, cooked and mashed carrot contains a higher amount of soluble fibre than a raw carrot stick.