Fiber: Why is it so important for overall health?


Such a boring word. It sounds like the stuff elderly folks need to drink to just move their bowels… But, why is it so important for all ages?

The Western diet, or Standard American Diet (SAD), has notoriously been low in fiber for some time. It’s not uncommon for anyone to be lacking in fiber just because it’s simply not a staple in our diets in this country.

NINETY FIVE PERCENT. Yes, 95% of Americans don’t eat enough fiber (1). I mean, I’m not just talking about the average McDonald’s customer either. Even the healthiest of eaters are likely not getting enough.

I recently created a food diary for myself and I was not even close to meeting my fiber intake for the day; on any days of the week. It was alarming. I was getting the average, which most Americans get, of around 15 grams per day.

The minimum recommendation is 25 grams per day. And that’s being generous. Most men probably need upwards of 38 grams of fiber a day. And women probably around 25-30 grams.

I get it; fiber isn’t exciting to talk about like the keto or paleo diet. But fiber is so essential, not just for our gut, but almost every organ in our body.

Getting adequate fiber can help:

  • Keep your weight normal
  • Keep you full longer
  • Regulate insulin production
  • Prevent heart disease and diabetes
  • Prevent colon cancer
  • Get your microbiome in check
  • Help prevent cancer

Since discovering that I wasn’t meeting my fiber needs, I’ve done a lot of research to find some pretty high fiber foods! And believe me, it’s harder than it sounds so don’t feel bad if you aren’t getting enough right now!

I assumed most foods I ate had plenty of fiber, but I was wrong. It wasn’t until I started analyzing my diet (this is when a food diary and Registered Dietitian comes in handy!) that I understood where I was going wrong.

So where are the BEST sources of fiber??

Raspberries : My numba one. I couldn’t believe the amount of fiber in these guys. (8 grams/cup)

Whole Grain Bread: This one can be tricky. A lot of bread just couldn’t rise to the occasion of being a good fiber source. I try to find whole grain breads with at least 7 grams per slice. So when I have two, I’m getting almost 14 grams, which is half my daily intake! (7 grams/slice)

Oats: Is there anything oats can’t do?? Oats are like the brother to the almighty olive oil in terms of health benefits. Oats are full of soluble fiber and are just so versatile that you can hide them in anything. Hell, make cookies with them to get some more fiber. (8 grams/cup)

Chia Seeds: A versatile food that you can put in almost anything. Yogurt, puddings, oatmeal, cereal, rolled on top of bananas with peanut butter, smoothies, etc. I love chia seeds. (11 grams/ounce)

Flax seed: Throw this in everything too. Flax is even easier to hide and get all the benefits because it’s tiny and tasteless. I put this on top of yogurt, in pancakes, oatmeal, cereal, mashed potatoes, sauce, smoothies. (8 grams/ 1/4 cup)

Apples: an apple a day keeps the colon cancer away! (4 grams/apple)

Chickpeas: First of all, chickpeas are a force to be reckoned with. Not only do they have a good amount of fiber (4 grams/ 1/2 cup), but they are also a complete protein, which means they carry all the essential amino acids we need! That’s not too easy to find. Usually we have to eat a variety of foods to get all those amino acids.

Not only will getting more fiber improve your health, but it can also help you lose weight!

Fiber is digested slower and therefore keeps you full for longer.

Easy tips to get more fiber

  • Eat more plant-based foods. Plants are rich sources of fiber and nutrients.
  • Fill 1/2 your plate with veggies.
  • Eat more whole grains. Enough with “cutting carbs”. Whole grains are so good for your digestion and health that it’s insane to cut them out unless you absolutely need to. You are likely doing more harm than good by eliminating them.
  • Add chia and flax seeds to anything you can. (oatmeal, cereal, etc.) These tasteless enhancements can add a good amount of fiber without changing too much of what you are already eating.
  • Top your pancakes, oats, waffles, etc. with fruit.
  • Mix oats into batters. Cookies and pancakes are an excellent way to enhance the soluble fiber with some oats!
  • Check the label, a good source of fiber will pack anywhere from 4+ grams/serving.

Most of us don’t think about fiber when consuming or choosing our next snack, but I think if we shifted our focus to just one nutrient then it may make decision making easier.

When you choose foods higher in fiber, you naturally shift towards more plant-based, healthy nutrition without really trying.

Our current diet culture is heavily focused on protein. Most of us exceed our protein needs on any given day. In fact, whatever you don’t need for protein, just gets eliminated through nitrogen in your urine. But if we look at the benefits each provides to the body, I would argue that fiber takes the cake.

That is not to say that we can’t have both! I just believe that our culture is so focused on getting enough protein that we lose sight of some of the more important, essential nutrients that fuel our gut microbes and entire body.


hi there, i’m michelle

welcome to my little home on the internet! I'm a Registered Dietitian and am here to share with you evidenced based and realistic ways to better your health for the long haul. Here you'll learn ways to eat that are both practical and sustainable. Enjoy!

Current Location

Current Location

New Hampshire

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