How Much Daily Fiber Do I Need?

“Eat your broccoli! You need more fiber.”

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. From one dinner table to the next, parents have long promoted fiber as a pillar of healthy eating. And let’s be clear — they’re not wrong.

Fiber helps support a multitude of bodily functions, including digestion, appetite control and cholesterol-maintenance. But those benefits only come when consuming fiber in moderation. As with most things in life, too much daily fiber can actually be harmful.

If you’re wondering how much daily fiber you should be consuming, you’re in the right place. But before we dive into the specifics, let’s start from the top.

What is Fiber, Again?

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plant foods that your body doesn’t digest or absorb. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber dissolves in our intestines to form a gel-like substance. From there, much of it is fermented into short-chain fatty acids by good gut bacteria and used for energy. Fermentable, soluble fiber provides about two calories per gram. However, it doesn’t have any effect on your blood sugar levels. [1][2]

Insoluble fiber is not dissolved or broken down during digestion. Instead, it remains intact during transit through the body and provides bulk to our stool. Since it’s not broken down, it doesn’t contribute any calories.

What are the Health Benefits of Fiber?

Fiber has numerous science-backed health benefits. It plays an essential role in reducing cholesterol levels, controlling blood sugar, promoting a healthy weight and regulating digestion!

Person standing on scale managing their weight with daily fiber

Fibrous foods also help you feel full sooner and stay full longer. So, when you’re eating a highly processed snack and feel like you’ll never get full, that’s the absence of fiber making itself known.

How Much Fiber Do I Need?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming 14 grams of daily fiber for every 1,000 calories, or 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.

People with certain medical conditions, such as IBS and IBD, may need to pay special attention to fiber intake and increase or decrease consumption during flare-ups. As always, we recommend speaking with your doctor to determine the appropriate fiber intake for you. [3]

Can I Eat Too Much Daily Fiber?

While fiber-rich foods are a part of a healthy diet, consuming too much can also be problematic. Abdominal discomfort, bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea are common symptoms associated with consuming too much fiber. In rare cases, an excessive amount of fiber, coupled with a lack of hydration or inadequate chewing, can lead to intestinal blockage.

Women with stomach cramps from eating too much fiber

To help avoid digestive upset, slowly increase your fiber intake over time in conjunction with adequate hydration. Also, make sure to consume a variety of fiber-rich foods with an optimal combination of soluble and insoluble fiber. [4][5]

What Are the Best Food Sources of Fiber?

Trying to incorporate more dietary fiber into your diet? Here’s a list of dietitian-approved, fiber-rich foods:

Whole Grains

Whole grains are minimally processed grains that have the germ, bran and endosperm intact. The bran layer is particularly fiber-rich and a source of many vitamins and minerals. Whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, brown rice, wild rice and quinoa boast between 3 to 7 grams of fiber per serving. Comparatively, their processed “white” counterparts average only 0 to 3 grams of fiber. Next time you reach for the breadbasket, opt for whole grain.

whole grain bread

Fruits

Fruits are a great source of dietary fiber. Raspberries top the list with a whopping 8 grams of fiber per 1 cup, followed by pears, apples with the skin, bananas, oranges and strawberries. Each of these fruits can serve as standalone snacks or be incorporated into salads, smoothies and other recipes.

Legumes & Lentils

Legumes and lentils are packed with soluble fiber. Navy beans take the cake with 19 grams of fiber in one cup, followed closely by lentils, pinto beans, black beans, split peas and chickpeas. Highly versatile, legumes and lentils can be great additions to soups, salads and chilis for a boost of protein and fiber.

Nuts & Seeds

Surprisingly, certain nuts and seeds — such as chia seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds and pistachios — contain high amounts of fiber. Chia seeds top the list with a whopping 10 grams of fiber per 1-ounce serving. Try pairing a serving of fiber-rich nuts and seeds with a serving of produce for a balanced and filling snack!

Veggies

Many veggies — specifically dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables — are loaded with fiber. Turnip, mustard and collard greens boast 5 grams of fiber per cup. Similarly, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts offer 5 to 6 grams per cup. To increase your fiber intake, add one or two of these veggies to your favorite soup, salad or entree.

Sources:

[1] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/
[2] www.accessdata.fda.gov/
[3] https://health.gov/
[4] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/
[5] https://www.sciencedirect.com

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written by

Kara Kash

Kara Kash

RD, LDN

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