The amount of fiber you need varies a bit, depending on your age and gender.
The 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans lists these goals for adults:
- Ages 19 to 30: 28 grams per day for women; 34 grams for men.
- Ages 31 to 50: 25 grams for women; 31 grams for men.
- Ages 51 and older: 22 grams for women, 28 grams for men.
Unfortunately, most Americans don’t get nearly enough fiber. And that’s too bad, because research continues to show fiber’s benefits.
For example, a study published online in advance of the May 2013 issue of the journal Stroke indicates that for every 7-gram increase in daily fiber consumption, the risk of stroke decreases by 7 percent.
There are plenty of other health benefits of a high-fiber diet, too. Fiber can both prevent constipation and reduce the risk of loose, watery stools, normalizing bowel movements. Eating fiber, particularly soluble fiber, decreases low-density lipoprotein (the “bad”) cholesterol, and it also might help reduce blood pressure and inflammation. A high-fiber diet can help prevent diabetes, and, in people who already have diabetes, it can slow down the absorption of sugar, thus improving blood sugar levels. High-fiber diets are also linked to maintaining a healthy weight, likely because they tend to add volume but no calories to foods and help you feel full longer.
Experts recommend getting a good mix of soluble and insoluble fiber — both provide health benefits. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance, helping lower blood sugar and cholesterol, while insoluble fiber helps move food through your digestive system and bulks up and softens stools.
To increase the fiber in your diet, try eating more of both kinds of fiber:
- Sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, oat cereal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, beans, dried peas, blueberries, psyllium, cucumbers, celery and carrots.
- Sources of insoluble fiber include whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, corn bran, seeds, nuts, barley, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes, fruit and skins of root vegetables.