One may argue that one of the biggest health problems in America may have a relatively simple fix. The problem is fiber intake; the solution is to eat more of it.
Dietary fiber serves several functions. It’s well known that it plays an essential role in good digestion by softening and providing bulk to stool so it moves out of you a little faster and easier.
Fiber can also help keep weight in check and reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol. There is also plenty of research to link fiber intake to a reduced risk for heart disease and diabetes. There is reason to believe it can improve overall gut health, offering immune support, protecting against inflammation, and potentially preventing some gut-related chronic diseases.
So why aren’t people eating enough of it? It’s a two-fold answer. One reason is that people don’t generally eat a healthy diet. The general recommendation is that people should get 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories (28-34 grams per day based on a 2,000 – 2,4000 daily total), with most getting about half that.
Many of the foods people eat are processed, which are stripped of fiber. Worse, many of these foods have sugar and salt added to boost flavor and texture.
Changing eating patterns can also play a role. As people age, they generally eat less because they simply do not need as many calories. The less you eat, the less opportunity you have to get fiber. High-fiber foods may require extra chewing, which might be a problem for some.
Fiber is found in large amounts in healthy foods. If you’re eating a few servings of whole fruits and vegetables per day, as well as whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, you’re eating fiber-rich stuff. If this stuff is not featured prominently, you’re likely low on fiber (and some essential nutrients).
Boosting fiber intake is as simple as adding more of these foods into your day. Two to four servings of fruit, two to four servings of vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes will do it.
Just be careful: too much fiber at once can be hard on your digestive system. Increase intake slowly, adding another fiber-rich food to your diet every couple of days or so.