What Is Fiber?
Fiber is a very important carbohydrate that you need in your diet. It’s necessary for healthy digestion, and it provides many other health-related benefits.
Fiber is different from other types of carbohydrates. Where most break down into simple sugars during digestion, it doesn’t. Instead, it passes through your body undigested.
It helps you feel satiated and helps regulate your blood sugar.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve. It promotes the movement of foods through your digestive system, helping you avoid digestive issues like constipation.
Both types are vital for your digestive health, regulating your blood sugar levels, keeping your heart healthy, and helping you maintain a healthy weight.
Why You Need Fiber
While fiber is derived from a necessary macronutrient, it technically isn’t considered an “essential nutrient.” Even so, it’s an important nutrient you need.
The daily recommended intake of fiber for adults under age 50 is 25 to 38 grams per day.
Children need 19 to 38 grams each day, depending on their age and sex. Many people don't get enough fiber in their diets.
Fiber plays an important role in many of your body systems, including:
One of fiber’s most vital roles is to help you to maintain a healthy digestive system. While your body can’t digest it, it does feed the good bacteria that live in your gut. That provides many health-related benefits, such as reducing your risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Soluble fiber can help to reduce your LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) levels. The exact effects vary, based on the type of fiber you eat. But lowering cholesterol could help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Blood sugar regulation
Certain types of fiber can help you feel fuller longer, which can lead to eating fewer calories and weight loss.
Why Your Kids Need Fiber
The first thing to realize about fiber is that, unlike other nutrients, the body doesn’t exactly “digest” it. Fiber acts like bulk or roughage as it passes through the intestines. It helps children extract and digest essential nutrients from all the other foods they eat, and then it leaves their body in the form of waste.
How much fiber kids need depends on their age.
Children between 1 and 3 years old need about 19 grams of fiber per day. Children between 4 and 8 years old need as much as 25 grams of fiber per day.
Foods With Fiber
Foods high in fiber make it easy to meet your recommended daily allowance. Some of the best sources of dietary fiber are:
Breakfast cereals are typically fortified with essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Most contain between 5 and 9 grams of fiber per serving. High-fiber cereals often contain between 9 and 14 grams of fiber per serving.
Types of beans include kidney, chickpeas (garbanzo), adzuki, black, pinto, and navy. They’re loaded with plant-based protein, as well as many important vitamins and minerals. They’re also high in fiber. Their fiber content ranges from 4 to 10 grams per serving, depending on the variety.
Avocados are different than other types of fruits. Where most fruits are high in carbohydrates, avocados have heart-healthy fats. They contain various vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium. They also provide 5 grams of fiber per half-cup serving.
Raspberries are low in calories but high in essential nutrients. A half-cup serving of the small red fruit provides 4 grams of fiber.
Artichokes are the immature buds of the thistle plant. Eaten as a vegetable, they provide vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. A half-cup serving of cooked artichoke contains 4.8 grams of fiber.
Oats are high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds. They also contain a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which helps regulate cholesterol and blood sugar levels. There are 8 grams of fiber in a cup of raw oats.
Chia seeds are one of the best sources of fiber, with 9.75 grams of the nutrient in a 1-ounce serving. Their fiber is mostly soluble, which helps keep you fuller longer and slows your digestion.
Too Much Fiber
While it's important to eat enough fiber every day, getting too much can have unwanted side effects.
More than 50 grams of fiber a day makes it harder for your body to absorb nutrients such as zinc, iron, magnesium, and calcium. Too much fiber in your diet can also lead to:
You may need to avoid certain fiber-rich foods if you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Talk to your doctor about the best amount of fiber for you.