How (and Why) to Eat More Fiber 

Aug 01, 2023

How (and Why) to Eat More Fiber 

Our collective nutrition is taking a big hit as we rely more on processed foods. For example,  only 5%-10% of the population in the United States is getting enough fiber. Let’s look at why this is a problem and what to do about it.

The old adage about an apple a day keeping the doctor away is true for many reasons, including the apple’s great fiber content. Dietary fiber plays an essential role in our bodies, yet as little as 5% of the population in the United States is getting enough.

To help you better understand the importance of fiber, especially from our perspective as colorectal specialists, the team here at Fairfax Colon & Rectal Surgery is taking a deeper dive into this type of carbohydrate. 

Here, we look at the many ways fiber supports our health and some great resources for fiber.

Dietary fiber and your health

In general, fiber can be divided into two categories:

  1. Soluble fiber that breaks down in water
  2. Insoluble fiber that doesn't dissolve in water

The first type — soluble fiber — is incredibly important in supporting your gut health. Your gut plays host to 38 trillion bacteria cells, give or take that make up your gut flora. These bacteria feed on the soluble fiber, which allows them to support your health in myriad ways, including:

  • Reducing inflammation in your gut
  • Supporting healthy weight
  • Promoting healthy cholesterol levels
  • Helping to control blood sugar levels

The insoluble fiber also delivers great health benefits, mainly because it helps to bulk up your stool and keep your lower digestive tract relatively clean.

From our standpoint, fiber helps to control constipation and diarrhea, fight colorectal cancer, and improve conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis

Your best sources of fiber

As a nutrient, fiber is naturally found in the plant kingdom, not the animal one. We recommend getting 25-35 grams of fiber daily — you can find fiber content on the labels of most foods. That said, we’d prefer you get your fiber from foods that don’t even have labels, including:

  • Lentils — 18 g in each cup
  • Split peas — 16.4 g per cup
  • Chickpeas (think hummus) — 12.5 g per cup
  • Pears — 6g
  • Apples — 4.5 g
  • Avocado — 10g per cup
  • Broccoli — 4 g per cup
  • Oats — 16.5 g per cup
  • Raspberries — 8 g per cup

For a more complete list of fiber counts in some of the more common foods we eat, click here.

If you’re looking to increase your fiber intake, we suggest that you do so gradually so that your gut can adjust to the influx. Bacteria give off gasses when they feed on the fiber, which can lead to some bloating and flatulence. Rest assured, these side effects generally disappear as your gut flora happily settles into your dietary change.

If you have more questions about whether you’re getting enough fiber in your diet and what dietary tweaks to make to ensure that you do, we invite you to schedule an appointment by contacting one of our offices in Fairfax, Fair Oaks, Alexandria, Gainesville, Woodbridge, or Lansdowne, Virginia.