Here’s How Much Fiber You Really Need in a Day
Fiber is essential for a healthy colon, gut and so much more...but research shows almost 94% of Americans aren't getting enough fiber every day.
If there’s one nutrient you need more of in your diet, it’s quite possibly fiber. Fiber is essential for managing blood sugar, maintaining a healthy digestive system (and may also aid in the prevention of colorectal cancer). Another benefit of fiber is that it can help keep you full after meals. Registered dietitian Maggie Michalczyk, RDN, explains: “A fiber-rich diet can help reduce the risk of diseases, increase satiety to prevent mindless snacking, and promote overall health.”
Fiber—often colloquially called “roughage”—is perhaps best known for facilitating the elimination of solid waste and keeping your digestive system “moving.” Sometimes that attribute alone is enough to inspire us to make sure we’re getting the right amount of fiber per day.
Michalczyk explains that there are two types of fiber the body needs: soluble fiber, and insoluble fiber. “Both types are important for our health,” Michalczyk says. “Soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber can prevent constipation and promote the regularity of our GI tract.”
Eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds helps ensure you’re getting enough of both types of fiber each day. Here’s the formula for making sure that’s the case: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 state that women older than 14 years should get at least 25 to 28 grams of fiber in a day, while men should aim for 31 to 34. If you’re looking for a more general, reliable target, “It is recommended that the average adult consumes 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day,” Michalczyk says.
Unfortunately, very few of us are getting enough fiber in their diet. According to the DGA, more than 90% of women and 97% of men are not getting enough fiber into their diet…and sadly, a good number of us are way off: Harvard University‘s blog suggests the average American only consumes between 10 to 15 grams of fiber in a day. So what does it take to get more fiber into your diet?
To get that minimum 25 grams of fiber in a day, the easiest solution is swapping out habitual foods you eat with high-fiber foods. For example, if you love having a sandwich for lunch, look for whole-grain bread that has higher fiber content per slice (many nutrition specialists would suggest somewhere between three and five grams per slice). If each slice of your sandwich has five grams, that’s 10 grams already! Other whole-grain swaps to consider include pasta, tortillas, brown rice, crackers, and more.
Another easy way to get 25 grams of fiber in a day is by adding high-fiber foods to the meals you’re already eating. For example, if you love to start the day with Greek yogurt, why not add in some raspberries (eight grams of fiber per cup), chia seeds (five grams per tablespoon), and almonds (three grams per one ounce). Oatmeal is also a great high-fiber breakfast (four grams per one cup cooked), as well as avocado (five grams per half-avocado). Smash that avocado onto whole grain toast, and you’ll be filling your belly with nutrition.
Adding a side salad to your lunch or dinner is also an easy way to add in more fiber. Toss together:
- leafy greens (one gram per cup),
- cherry tomatoes (two grams per cup),
- shredded carrots (three grams per cup),
- and cucumber (one gram per cup) with your favorite vinaigrette for a simple garden salad.
- You could also add in some roasted chickpeas for extra protein and crunch, with an impressive 13 grams of fiber per cup of chickpeas. Also swap chickpea pasta instead of regular pasta, and cauliflower crust instead of flour wraps, tortillas, or pizza dough.
If you prefer starch on the side, high-fiber starches are some of the best sources of this particular nutrient. One cup of black beans contains 15 grams of fiber, while potatoes (both white and sweet) contain four grams.
Is there such a thing as too much fiber?
With so many great delicious sources of dietary fiber…could you consume too much? What exactly happens to your body if you consume, say, 50 grams of fiber in a day?
First, it’s important to note that you should always drink an adequate amount of water with your fiber intake to help with the process of digesting fiber. A rule of thumb from nutrition experts is that you should be drinking one liter (just over four cups) of water with every 10 grams of fiber you consume. So if you’re hitting your dietary goal of 25 grams, that would be 10 cups of liquid. If you do end up consuming 50 grams of fiber, that would mean drinking 20 cups in a day. That’s a lot of both.
Water is also essential for avoiding any uncomfortable gas or bloating during the digestion process, which can happen if you consume too much fiber at once. If your body isn’t used to taking in that much fiber, you will likely experience intestinal gas, abdominal bloating, and cramping, according to the Mayo Clinic. Instead, be sure to increase your fiber gradually over a few weeks, as if you’re training your digestive tract to adjust.
Signs that your fiber intake is low
While the average American only gets around 15 grams of fiber a day, some may even be getting less, which can cause a series of issues in a person’s health. Some of those signs of a low-fiber diet include:
- High cholesterol
- Weight gain
- Feeling hungry
- High blood sugar
- Digestive pain
What is the best form of fiber to take?
Along with getting more fiber from dietary sources, some also might find it beneficial to also add a fiber supplement into their routine (though it’s important to speak with your doctor to understand if this is right for you). One of the most popular forms of fiber to take is psyllium husk, a natural form of soluble fiber that can easily be produced in a supplement form. According to the medical experts at Mount Sinai, psyllium husk can help lower cholesterol, relieve constipation and diarrhea, and treat other intestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome and hemorrhoids.
Psyllium husk can be taken in different forms, but one of the most popular is a powder that can be added in to a drink or smoothie. It doesn’t have any taste, but it can make whatever you are consuming thicker, so it could even help to give your smoothie that thick consistency you desire.