We’ve all seen it, the very last line on the nutrition facts charts that kind-of seems like an afterthought—fiber. Have you ever really put much thought into how much fiber you should be eating each day? Fiber should not be an afterthought! The good news is that it’s actually really easy to increase fiber at your meals, and there are a lot of great health benefits to eating more fiber. Read more to find out why fiber is important and get seven tips to increase fiber in your diet.
What is Fiber?
Fiber is a plant-based material that the digestive enzymes in your body don’t break down. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is absorbed by your digestive system. There is research that shows that soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.1 The second type is insoluble fiber which is not broken down by the digestive system. It adds bulk to stools and helps regulate bowel movements. This type of super important for people who struggle with constipation and irregular stools!2
How Much Do I Need?
The USDA recommends women get at least 25 grams of fiber each day, however, women often need up to 40 grams per day to minimize any negative effect on their pelvic floor.3 To put this into perspective, on average, Americans are only eating 10-15 grams per day. That means there is definitely some room for improvement! As always, check with your trusted health care provider to determine what the right amount of fiber is for you.
Where Can I Get Fiber From?
Just like vitamins, calcium, and other important nutrients, there are fiber supplements on the market. However, it is best to try to get your fiber from foods because this provides you with a greater variety of fiber and nutrients that will keep you healthier!3 The best sources of fiber are whole grains, fruits and veggies, and legumes. The key is to avoid heavily processed or refined foods, as the method for producing these items decreases the amount of fiber significantly.
How Does this Affect My Pelvic Floor?
Lack of fiber can lead to constipation. If you are constipated, your first instinct might be to strain or bear down to facilitate bowel movements. This increase in pressure puts a greater load through your pelvic floor and can contribute or worsen issues such as leaking, prolapse, and pelvic pressure. If you have any pelvic floor issues, it is even more important to get enough fiber in your diet to maintain regular bowel movements and prevent the need to strain.
Easy Ways to Increase Fiber
1. Increase fiber (in grams) gradually (rather than going from 10 to 25 grams overnight) to allow your body time to adapt
2. Increase your water intake as this will help regulate bowel habits
3. Swap out processed white grains from whole grains (brown rice instead of white, use whole grain pasta. etc.)
4. When baking, try mixing half whole wheat flour with half white flower
5. Add fruits to yogurt and smoothies (add spinach too for an extra fiber kick!)
6. Add beans or peas to soups (great sources of protein too)
7. Cook greens like spinach or kale into your favorite pasta dishes or stir fries
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, January 6). Dietary fiber: Essential for a health diet. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 7, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983.
- UCSF Health. (2021, September 22). Increasing fiber intake. Retrieved October 7, 2021, from https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/increasing-fiber-intake.
- McManus, K. (2019, February 27). Should I be eating more fiber? Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved October 7, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/should-i-be-eating-more-fiber-2019022115927.