We eat too much processed food. We eat too much meat. And we eat too little fiber.
The fiber (or lack of it) in most of us is a big problem. We eat far too little fiber, and we do the wrong things with it. Fiber is an important component of a healthy diet, and without it we get fatter and sicker.
Fiber is the stuff that’s in plants. It’s in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It’s also in grains and beans. It has a lot of important functions. Fiber is bulky, and because it takes up space, it makes you feel full. It also absorbs water, so even though you take in less calories, you don’t feel hungry. That’s important, because according to one study, the average American eats 1,400 calories of junk food each day, while consuming only 600 calories of fiber.
Fiber also protects you from disease. The fiber in whole grains, for example, is part of what stops your body’s absorption of cholesterol. Fiber also keeps you regular. And fiber keeps you lean. A pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. Half of that fat is from adipose tissue, or fat in fat cells. The other half of fat is from the food you eat. If you eat fewer calories and eat less fat, you lose weight. But fiber also prevents fat from forming in the first place.
Without enough fiber, you may experience constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, and abdominal pain. A high-fiber diet may also prevent heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Fiber is found in plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Beans and lentils are a great source of fiber, as are nuts and seeds. Oats, barley, and brown rice are also good sources of fiber. You can also find fiber in fortified foods and dietary supplements. Fiber supplements are usually recommended to people with constipation.