My friends, come closer. I have something important to discuss. I know that you want to be healthier, clearer-headed, perhaps a few pounds lighter? One word: fiber.

If you’re anything like most Americans, you’re not getting enough of it. Not even close. The recommended amount is 25 grams per day for women, or 38 grams for men. Most of us are getting closer to 15 grams. But fiber is mainly to keep things “moving”, right? That’s actually only part of it. Its other crucial function is to keep the 100 trillion or so bacteria that reside in our digestive tract happy. These little buggers (pun intended) use certain types of fiber for fuel, and leave behind byproducts crucial to human health. We will further explore the role of the gut microbiota in a future post. For now, let’s look at these different forms of fiber, and where you can find them.

Back when I was in school to become a nutrition professional, we mainly classified fiber to be either “soluble” or “insoluble”. Thanks to aggressive research in the past few decades, it is now understood that other properties including the fermentation capacity, and degree of viscosity matter as well. Soluble fibers, found in oats, fruit, and legumes, blend with water in our gut and form a gel-like substance. This helps slow digestion, and keeps us full longer. When it comes to weight management, the more viscous the fiber, the better. Highly viscous fibers include betaglucans, pectins, psyllium, and glucomannan. Insoluble fibers, found in whole grains, and vegetables, help keep us regular by adding ‘bulk’ to the stool. And last, but certainly not least, are fermentable fibers. These are the favorite fuel source for our gut flora, and can be found to some degree in all fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

The key message here is that fiber is important for more than we give it credit for. And, you’re not likely consuming enough of it. For recipe ideas using the fiber-rich foods listed above, visit our Media Library. Oh, and one last thing: fiber is only friendly when you are drinking plenty of water as well, so drink up!