This Is Why Your Diet Needs to Include Fiber



Falling short on fiber

Almost everyone could use more dietary fiber. In general, people don’t get enough of this plant-based nutrient, which can be incredibly beneficial for your health.

Why is it challenging to get enough fiber? Low-fiber diets are widespread, and a lot of food we love to eat lacks the fiber that protects against constipation and digestive issues (and offers a bunch of other health benefits).

Fiber supplements are having a moment, but many questions remain: Are they safe? And are they truly a healthy substitute for natural sources of fiber?

Read on to see what registered dietitians think and the fiber supplements they recommend for boosting regularity and overall health.

What is fiber?

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber draws water to it, forming a gel during digestion and slowing the digestive process. You’ll find it in oats, beans, nuts and seeds, barley, and fruits and veggies like peas, apples, citrus, and carrots. It’s found in psyllium, too, which is a common fiber supplement.

Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool, helping food move through your digestive tract more quickly and leading to more regular bowel movements. It’s found in nuts, beans, wheat bran, whole grains, and veggies like cauliflower and green beans.

Fiber is important for regulating the body’s processing of sugar and helps keep hunger and blood sugar levels in check. Not only that, but it promotes regular bowel movements, which can help you avoid constipation.

Eating more fiber is linked to healthier digestion, a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol levels, reduced weight, and more.

How much fiber do you need?

According to guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans should eat 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories of food.

So if you eat 2,000 calories a day, you should aim for 28 grams of fiber daily.

Should you use a fiber supplement?

Unsurprisingly, most health experts concur that you should first try to up your fiber content through naturally fiber-rich foods.

You can find fiber content listed on the nutrition facts label on any packaged food. According to the USDA, some of the best natural sources of fiber include beans and peas, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and nuts.

“Fiber sources are derived from plant material, as animal-based foods do not contain fiber,” explains Orlando-based registered dietitian Gabrielle Mancella.

But there is a place for fiber supplements.

“Should you find that your diet does not allow you the opportunity to consume enough in whole-food form, supplementing is a valuable alternative,” says Mancella. “Most plant sources can now be found in powdered form and added to different foods, such as smoothies, meatballs, and sauces, as they come unflavored.”

Since fewer than 8 percent of American adults are meeting the suggested daily fiber consumption, many people are unsurprisingly seeking out fiber supplements to help them meet their needs, adds Lauren Manaker, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Charleston, South Carolina.

“I always recommend trying to eat a diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and seeds to meet dietary fiber needs as a first step,” Manaker says. “Along with the fiber that these foods contain, they are also packed with a slew of other good-for-you components that pills [or powders] simply can not hold a candle to.”

If a diet truly has a gap in the fiber department, supplements can be considered—along with a good dose of water to maintain hydration and reduce constipation risk, Manaker says.

What should you look for in a fiber supplement?

Like many items on drugstore and health food store shelves, not all supplements are created equal. So don’t just pick any fiber supplement from store shelves. Shop around for a product that’s reliable and addresses your needs.

Third-party testing

“For one thing, supplements aren’t very well regulated, so you want to purchase from a company that you know does its due diligence in third-party testing,” says Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, Connecticut.

No added sweeteners

Gorin also recommends fiber supplements that aren’t sweetened, meaning they don’t contain added sugar or even stevia. Even without sugar, these ingredients can get you used to a sweeter taste.

“You won’t often find a fiber supplement with sugar alcohols, but if you do, I wouldn’t buy it as it may cause gastrointestinal upset,” she says.

Addresses your health needs

“When looking for a fiber supplement, I like to understand which type of fiber a person really needs and look for the best fit,” Manaker says. “There are two types of fiber—soluble and insoluble—and while both are important, they can vary slightly when it comes to their roles in the body.”

She points to the specific benefits of the soluble fiber inulin. Finding fiber supplements that contain prebiotic fibers like inulin is a good way to support overall gut health, she says.

Since prebiotic fiber essentially “feeds” live probiotics, supplying the body with these fibers is a simple way to support your overall health.

What most people do not realize is that without prebiotic fiber, a source of carbohydrate that allows the fiber to do its job, we likely will not reap all of the benefits that come from getting enough fiber, Mancella says.

Prebiotic and probiotic combo

Probiotics help support health goals, too, and many brands are including these live organisms in their supplements.

Combining prebiotic fiber supplements with live probiotics gives the body a one-two punch in the gut health department, Manaker says.

How much fiber should you take?

According to Manaker, consuming appropriate quantities is key, and using a fiber supplement that only provides one gram of fiber probably won’t be helpful.

“Having something that contains at least three grams of fiber per serving is a good rule of thumb in my book,” she says.

The best fiber supplements


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Manitoba Harvest Hemp Yeah Max Fiber Hemp Protein Powder

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“Hemp protein is my favorite fiber supplement,” Mancella says. “This one is virtually one gram of carbohydrate per serving, and with eight grams of fiber, it can easily contribute approximately a third of your daily needs, with the added benefit of omega-3 and plant protein. My family has no idea that I add it to our brownie mix.”

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Benefiber Prebiotic Fiber Supplement On the Go

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“This product makes it really easy to add fiber to your food or drink while on the go,” Gorin says. “The plant-based prebiotic fiber easily dissolves into food and drink.”


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Zhou Nutrition Gut Guru Gummies

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“These supplements are in gummy form, so they can be taken when you are on the go and come in especially handy when traveling,” Manaker says. “They also combine prebiotic inulin fiber with probiotics to help support gut health in a symbiotic way.”


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Regular Girl Prebiotic Fiber and Probiotic Blend

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This fiber comes in individual serving packets, which allows you to skip the measuring, and gives a whopping six grams of protein, Manaker says. It’s flavorless, vegan, and free of sugar and gluten.

(Follow a vegan diet? These are the vitamin deficiencies vegans should know about.)


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Olipop Sparkling Tonic

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Yes, this is a soda, but some people use it instead of taking a fiber supplement because each can contains prebiotic fiber, says Manaker. That, and they enjoy the taste of soda.

Made with prebiotic-rich foods like Jerusalem artichoke, one can of Olipop contains nine grams of fiber. It comes in seven different flavors, so you can spice things up.


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Metamucil Fiber Thins

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Made with psyllium husk, these cookie-like thins are one of the most innovative ways to ensure you are getting enough fiber, offering four grams per serving, Manaker says.

If you prefer a fiber supplement in capsule form, Metamucil’s offerings are a good option as well, she adds.


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365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Chia Seeds

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While not technically a supplement, chia seeds are another favorite of Mancella’s for adding volume and fiber into her diet.

“These seeds can be added to virtually anything and have little to no taste, and the texture is easily able to mesh with most foods you add it to,” she says.

The post 7 Best Fiber Supplements to Help You Become ‘Regular’ appeared first on The Healthy.

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