There’s no doubt that fiber is one of the key nutrients that is essential for a healthy diet. Unfortunately, a large number of people fail to consume the daily required amount of fiber.
According to a study, it has been revealed that this is exactly what’s happening to most children and adults in America.
5 Signs You Are Not Eating Enough Fiber
Your cholesterol is high
Yes, really. According to research, consuming enough fiber may help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by improving cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and reducing inflammation (we’ll touch on that in a bit).
“Soluble fiber acts like a sponge and absorbs cholesterol in the small intestine and passes it through the digestive tract as waste,” explains Hass.
Moreover, soluble fiber in the large intestine produces short chain fatty acids that help with preventing cholesterol synthesis (production) in the liver.
If you suspect or know that you have high cholesterol, consider upping your fiber intake. And, of course, consult a professional.
You’re gaining weight
Why does one slice of whole wheat bread feel more “satisfying” than two slices of white bread? The reason is fiber, which is removed with the outer coating of the grain during the milling process of white bread.
Whole wheat bread, on the other hand, contains fiber-dense bran and wheat germ, which provide a more constant source of energy.
As a result, you feel full faster and longer. Other fiber-rich foods such as brown rice and legumes have the same satiating effect, making it less likely that you would indulge in impulsive snacking.
The happy result: you don’t gain weight! A review of several studies linking high fiber intake with weight loss, published in the Nutrition Review.
Concluded that an increase in either soluble or insoluble fiber intake increases postmeal satiety and decreases subsequent hunger.
So, if lately, the scales have been moving up, it might be time to up your fiber intake.
You have inflammation
If you’re experiencing inflammation, you might suspect that you’re not drinking enough water. One likely possibility, though, is that you’re not getting enough fiber.
“A low-fiber diet means [that] you aren’t nourishing the “good” bacteria and other microbes in your large intestine, which can throw your gut microbiota out of whack.
A healthy, diverse, balanced gut microbiota is important for good health, in part because it can help prevent chronic inflammation,” Dennett explains.
“Most of our immune system cells live in our intestinal walls.
So when our gut microbiota is unhealthy or unbalanced, there’s a better chance that our immune system will unnecessarily unleash inflammation on the body.”
To sum it up, not eating enough fiber could potentially lead to not feeding the good bacteria in your gut. When this happens your body may become inflamed.
While this may not seem like a big deal, chronic inflammation is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. So it’s ideal that we feed our good bacteria (by eating fiber, for example).
You feel hungry. A lot
For the same reason that fiber makes you feel full, lack of it makes you feel hungry. This does not help if you are trying to control your weight.
The most common culprits here are foods made with plain white flour, which has been stripped of most of its fiber.
So, white rice, pancakes, pasta—notice how you tend to eat more of these as compared to whole wheat versions.
If those hunger pangs have been hitting too soon after a “meal,” it is time to turn to fiber-rich foods!
You’re moving slow
Perhaps one of the surest signs that you need more fiber is trouble with bowel movement. If chronic constipation is an issue, more fiber is in order.
Particularly insoluble fiber which holds on to water and helps form softer, bulkier stools to regulate bowel movement.
According to experts at The Harvard School of Medical Health, “the fiber from wheat bran and oat bran seems to be more effective in relief from constipation than similar amounts of fiber from fruits and vegetables.”
They add a cautionary note—don’t up your fiber intake suddenly. Gradual increase is best.
How much fibre should I eat every day?
A rough estimate of the amount you need is about 18g a day, though 16 – 24g is a healthy range and individual requirements vary.Ideally you should aim to open your bowels at least once a day and not have to strain when you go to the loo.
One example of what you’d need to equal about 18g is a bowl of bran cereal for breakfast, a wholemeal sandwich with a bowl of salad for lunch, and five portions of fruit and vegetables.
You need to eat a balance of insoluble an soluble fibre types.
Insoluble fibre is the type that’s best at alleviating constipation as it can soak up around fifteen times it’s own weight in water.
This increases the bulk of stools, which in turn stimulates gut contractions and keeps the bowels moving regularly.
Foods richest in insoluble fibre are the fibrous types like wholemeal bread, brown rice and bran cereals.
Soluble fibre helps food move along the gut too, but it also lowers cholesterol by binding to it in the gut. It doesn’t hold as much water as insoluble fibre, but it dissolves in the gut forming a viscous gel.
This gel slows down the rate at which sugar enters the bloodstream, which can help keep energy levels steady.
Too much soluble fibre can sometimes be a problem though, as it is fermented by bacteria to produce gas.
If you are prone to wind or an irritable bowel, eat your five a day fruit and vegetables – but no more – and avoid beans and pulses.