- More than 90% of women and 97% of men in the US do not consume the recommended amount of daily dietary fiber.
- I live in the UK, so I tracked my fiber intake based on our recommendation of 30g per day, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
- Dietitian Jo Cunningham told Insider it’s important to increase your fiber gradually.
More than 90% of women and 97% of men do not consume the recommended amount of daily dietary fiber, according to data from the USDA. For American women and men aged 19-30, the recommendation is 28g and 34g, respectively.
As a nutrition and fitness reporter, I like to think I eat a largely healthy diet, but while I have plenty of experience tracking my calories and macros, I’ve never paid proper attention to my fiber intake until recently.
When I tracked my fiber for a week, I was surprised to find I wasn’t hitting 30g as easily as I’d expected. Logging everything was time-consuming too, more effort than calorie counting.
Fiber is important for maintaining blood sugar levels
Fiber is the part of plant foods that isn’t digested in the small intestine, and it has various benefits including keeping our bowel movements regular and our stools a good consistency (not too solid, not too runny), Jo Cunningham, registered dietitian and Clinical Director of The Gut Health Clinic, told Insider.
Fiber is the fuel for trillions of microbes living within the large intestine, which is important for reducing inflammation, maintaining blood sugar levels, regulating hormones and appetite, and stimulating our immune system, she said.
“Increased fiber intake has been associated with a range of health benefits including a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and overall mortality,” Cunningham said.
Eating more fiber-rich foods can help with weight loss because they often require more chewing, meaning you eat slower, which can help reduce overall food intake, she said.
It was hard to hit 30g of daily fiber every day
I live in the UK, so I tracked my fiber intake based on our recommendation of 30g per day.
My normal diet includes lots of whole grains, fruit, and vegetables, so I thought I would hit the target easily, but I didn’t.
On my first day I ate a smoothie and some pumpkin bread; a bagel with chicken, tomato, and grains soup, sausage ragu with rigatoni and broccoli, and a protein bar and Greek yogurt with berries.
After logging my meals in the MyFitnessPal app, it said I’d only eaten 20g fiber. It was hard to be certain though because both the pumpkin bread and sausage ragu were homemade.
Eating out was also difficult. I’m good at eyeballing calories and protein in meals from years of tracking on and off, but guessing the fiber content was tricky. However, I made educated choices, such as choosing a tomato-based pasta dish over a creamy one.
When I’d log my store-bought foods based on what other MyFitnessPal users had previously inputted, I realized many hadn’t included fiber, just calories and macros. This meant I had to calculate my fiber manually, which was time-consuming.
As the week went on, I got better at hitting or exceeding 30g of fiber, eating up to 50g on one day from: a bagel with peanut butter and banana plus yogurt with berries; a turkey avocado sandwich with a clementine; a beef burger in a wholewheat bun with skin-on roasted butternut squash and broccoli; plus a high-fiber protein bar and a protein shake.
Tweaks like adding flaxseed to my yogurt, not scrimping on avocado, and roasting lots of veggies helped me hit the target.
Cunningham said it’s important to up your fiber intake gradually so you don’t shock the gut. She suggests adding flaxseed, chia seeds, hulled hemp seeds, whole or ground nuts, or fruit to breakfast, striving to eat a variety of foods.
I didn’t notice much difference in how I felt on my lower and higher fiber days, and I realized my normal diet has a lot of variation in fiber intake. However, I’m going to try and be more consistent to keep my gut happy.