Fiber isn’t just something to worry about as we grow older — it’s essential for everyday life. For the unfamiliar: fiber is the part of plant-based foods that cannot be digested by our bodies. There are two types of fiber: soluble (dissolves in water) and insoluble (does not dissolve in water), and both have incredible disease-fighting capabilities.
Insoluble fiber acts like a broom, sweeping out waste through our system and helping us stay regular. Soluble fiber is fuel for our healthy gut bacteria and helps keep our blood cholesterol levels in check. Fiber, in general, helps us with weight management, reduces your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Yet even with all its amazing benefits, fewer than 5% of Americans get enough, with other countries not far behind. According to the Institute of Medicine, women need 25 grams of fiber per day, and men need 38 grams per day. Since it can be challenging to calculate, we thought it we would help you tune into common signals that you’re not getting enough fiber.
Am I getting enough fiber?
Here are five common signs that your diet is fiber-deficient.
1. You have tummy troubles
Fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in our gut. We want to keep these little friends happy because they give back to us in many ways, including helping us maintain a healthy weight and fighting harmful bacteria that comes from food we eat. If you experience frequent diarrhea, stomach upset, or cramping, you may want to consider adding more fiber to your diet to help to balance your bacteria.
2. You’re bloated
When you increase your fiber consumption, it’s important to take it slow. If you add too much at once, you may experience bloating, gas, and even constipation, because fiber binds to water. Keep things going and flowing by slowly adding fiber to your diet and pairing it with extra water.
3. Your cholesterol is elevated
There are many reasons why our cholesterol can become elevated, including genetics, medication, and smoking, but diet can be a major contributor. Soluble fiber helps reduce your LDL (low-density lipoprotein, known as the “bad” cholesterol) as well as overall cholesterol by binding to it and removing it from your body.
4. You’re gaining weight
Fiber helps us maintain a healthy weight because it increases the chew time and fills us up without extra calories. On the other hand, processed grains (e.g. white flour, de-germed cornmeal, white bread, white rice) leave you feeling unsatisfied because the outer layer, which contains most of the fiber, has been removed. These foods can lead to crashes, which lead to more cravings and hunger. Opt for a fiber-rich diet including whole grains instead, since fiber also helps blood sugar be more stable, leading to sustained energy.
5. You fail the transit test
Everyone poops, but not everyone is as healthy as possible when it comes to digestion. Try this do-it-yourself test at home to see if everything’s moving as it should be:
Eat 1 cup whole kernel corn or beets, or 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds and write down the time and date. Whichever food you choose, don’t have it again for the next 36 hours.
Now for the fun part: observe your stool over the next 36 hours and write down the time you first see the food you ate. For instance, if you initially ate it at 8am Friday morning, and see it when you went to the bathroom at 8am on Saturday morning, you would have a 24 hour transit time.
What’s healthy? 12-48 hours in total is a good standard, but always consult a physician if you’re concerned. If your bowel movements take longer than two days, consider adding more fiber and water to your diet.
When creating 8fit recipes, we choose fiber-filled carbs that are health-promoting, slow-digesting, and nutrient-rich. Check out our many fiber-filled recipes on the 8fit app.