Fiber is one of our essential nutrients. It is so important that experts recommend eating 31 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. Yet, a fiber gap exists between the recommended daily intake and what we typically eat.
Why Worry About the Fiber Gap?
Fiber plays a crucial role to our health. It supports intestinal regularity, provides nourishment for beneficial bacteria (microbiota) that lives in the large intestine, helps manage blood cholesterol levels, and steadies blood glucose and/or insulin levels after eating. By merely passing through the large intestine and then being fermented by our microbiota, fiber does a lot.
And there’s more!
Research shows that people who eat the most dietary fiber are less likely to develop certain chronic diseases. That’s why the US government is worried enough about our fiber gap to call it a public health concern for the majority of the U.S. population.
So how might you fill your fiber gap? First, eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, and foods made from grains. In addition to their fiber content, these foods deliver important vitamins and minerals without loading up your plate with too many calories. But it’s not as simple as following government guidelines such as MyPlate—you need to choose foods that also have moderate to high amounts of fiber. Otherwise, you run the risk of still falling short.
To boost your fiber, you can select from the many fiber-rich prepared and processed foods on the shelves of most supermarkets. Often marked “source of fiber” or “high fiber,” these foods provide higher amounts of fiber.
Chicory root fibers, also listed on the ingredient list as inulin, oligofructose or fructo-oligosaccharides, are an excellent source of fiber that may be added to foods such as yogurt, cereal bars, and other fiber-enriched products. In fact, many of the vegetables you eat also have chicory root fibers, but it is not possible to extract the inulin in their roots. Like fiber in fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains, chicory root fibers are all natural and they support digestive health. In addition, the chicory root fibers have properties that improve the taste and texture of the foods they are used in.
Add fiber-rich foods gradually to allow your body time to adapt. Most people can tolerate a 5-11 gram serving of chicory root fibers. You’ll know the extra fiber is working when your digestive system feels more regular. (Be sure to drink more water and other fluids as you increase your fiber intake.) Any discomfort could mean that you’ve been overly enthusiastic, so cut back and go a little slower.