For a recent episode of The Dr. Jason Show, I sat down with Dr. Mark Soliman, a colorectal surgeon at Florida Hospital. We talked about colon health and colorectal cancer, and a good deal about the desirable and undesirable qualities of stool. I know you’ll click over and watch now!
One thing that kept coming up is the importance of getting lots of dietary fiber. Dr. Soliman said to shoot for at least 25 to 30 grams of fiber every day. The official recommended daily intake from the Institute of Medicine is 25 g for adult women and 38 g for adult men (and it drops to 21 g and 30 g respectively starting at age 51).
Dr. Soliman also pointed out that this should be combined with 50 ounces of water; drinking plenty of water is important with high fiber intake to prevent gas and constipation—especially when you’re newly upping your consumption.
Most of us aren’t getting enough fiber. On average, the typical American diet provides 15 grams of fiber each day. That can cause all sorts of digestive problems, increase the risk of developing a number of diseases, and leave you feeling short on energy.
What Is Fiber and Where Do You Get It?
While most nutrients are absorbed in our digestive tract, fiber’s a little different in that it’s indigestible plant matter, sometimes referred to as roughage. The fiber you eat passes through you and out with your stool in pretty much the same condition as when it went in. But at the same time, it’s promoting efficient digestion and elimination of waste.
Found in all plant-based foods, fiber is so easy to get. Fruit, vegetables, beans and other legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are all good sources of dietary fiber. And, as I’m sure you know, these are all things you’re supposed to eat anyway for so many reasons. However, keep in mind that pulp-free or low-pulp juices, canned fruit and veggies, and refined grains contain very little fiber.
Fiber is divided into two categories: soluble and insoluble. This refers to whether it dissolves in water. Most plant foods contain both types, but many are significantly higher in one or the other. While they do some different things in your body, both types are essential to optimal health. Eating a variety of plant-based foods every day ensures you get a balanced intake of soluble and insoluble fiber to enjoy the benefits of each.
Benefits of Dietary Fiber
Without getting caught up in which benefits are mainly derived from which type of fiber, I want to outline the primary benefits of eating a diet rich in fiber. Eating enough fiber every day can help:
- Fill you up and keep you feeling satisfied, aiding weight loss or weight control efforts
- Promote regular bowel movements and remedy constipation or diarrhea
- Contribute to bulkier stool that’s easier to pass
- Reduce your risk of hemorrhoids and diverticulosis
- Prevent or reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Cut down on flareups of ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Reduce your risk of colorectal cancer
- Lower bad (LDL) blood cholesterol levels
- Bring down high blood pressure
- Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke
- Regulate blood glucose levels, including in people with diabetes
- Prevent type 2 diabetes
- Reduce your risk of gallstones and kidney stones
That’s a pretty impressive list, don’t you think? Again, getting enough dietary fiber isn’t hard if you’re making healthy food choices throughout the day for meals and snacks. No excuses, just do it!