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Most people are not getting enough of this in their diet, and it is not protein...

As a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, I hear a lot of conversations around nutrition. I also see many controversial social media nutrition "opinion" posts, particularly about protein, how much or how little, and what are the "best" sources. And yet, very few people are protein deficient. Although research shows protein is a vital component of a healthy diet, the much lesser talked about nutrient that most people are really deficient in is fiber. Nutritionists know we cannot overstate the importance of dietary fiber for maintaining overall health and wellbeing throughout the lifespan.

What is fiber? Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body cannot fully digest, yet it is essential for several critical bodily functions.

Unfortunately, most Americans are falling drastically short when it comes to consuming an adequate amount of fiber each day. The statistics are quite alarming - current research shows that a staggering 95% of Americans do not meet the recommended daily intake of fiber.

According to the CDC, adults should consume 22 - 34 grams of fiber per day, while other experts in the field will say much more. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. And yet on average, Americans consume only about 16 grams of fiber daily - less than half of what is recommended.

This widespread fiber deficiency is highly concerning given the multitude of vital health benefits that a high-fiber diet provides. Let's explore some of the key advantages of getting sufficient fiber:

Digestive Health and Regularity

Dietary fiber is absolutely essential for proper digestion and maintaining regular, healthy bowel movements. The insoluble fiber found in foods like vegetables, whole grains, wheat bran, nuts and seeds adds bulk to stool, allowing it to pass through the digestive tract more easily.

Soluble fiber, from sources such as fruits, oats, barley, and legumes like lentils and beans, can help reduce constipation by drawing water into the intestines. Adequate fiber intake can prevent or alleviate uncomfortable issues like hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Chronic Disease Prevention

Extensive research shows that diets high in fiber-rich plant foods are associated with a significantly lower risk of developing various chronic health conditions including:

• Heart disease - Soluble fiber helps reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, learn more about this on the American College of Lifestyle Medicine website.

• Type 2 diabetes - Fiber slows the absorption of sugar, improving blood sugar control

• Certain cancers - Fiber may bind to cancer-causing compounds, expediting their removal from the body

Healthy Weight Management

High-fiber foods tend to be more filling, have fewer calories per gram, and are digested more slowly than low-fiber, refined foods. This can promote feelings of satiety and prevent overeating. Fiber also helps regulate blood sugar levels, which prevents spikes in hunger.

Some studies indicate that making an effort to increase your fiber intake by just 14 grams per day could result in a 10% decrease in calorie intake and progressive, sustained weight loss over time - all while feeling more satisfied from meals and snacks.

How to Increase Your Fiber Intake

At this point, you may be wondering how can you actually go about increasing your daily fiber grams?

Here are some simple tips and resources to help:

• Use a tracking app like Cronometer to monitor your daily intake and set goals to increase it gradually

• Check nutrition labels and choose foods with higher fiber content

• Focus on consuming more plant-based foods, American College of Lifestyle Medicine Superfoods

• Try fruit smoothies, veggie soups or salads to squeeze in extra produce

• Opt for whole grain breads, pastas, oats and brown rice instead of refined grains

• Have fiber supplements on hand to mix into yogurt, oatmeal or smoothies for a convenient fiber boost

• Refer to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics High Fiber Food List for great high-fiber options

Be sure to increase your fiber intake slowly and drink plenty of water to avoid any temporary digestive discomfort like gas or bloating as your body adjusts. A simple, high-fiber diet can go a long way in optimizing your health, maintaining regularity, and preventing chronic diseases for improved longevity.

Get fibering today!


Kathleen Belonga, Kathleen Belonga Coaching LLC., and/or Mindful Living & Yoga, LLC. may share information on this website about health, nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle. None of the information shared is intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition. All information on our website is for educational purpose only and is not meant to serve as nutritional recommendations, a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have an injury or health concern, please consult your doctor or seek help from a qualified health provider. We may also use AI resources to assist in writing blogs from time to time.

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