Fiber is a crucial nutrient for dietary health, and most of us don’t get nearly enough. It’s estimated that only about 5% of Americans consume enough fiber to support their health. What does fiber do anyway?
Fiber has many health benefits. People often think that fiber "makes you poop." While this is somewhat true, it's also a bit of a misconception. Your body doesn't fully digest fiber. So, when you consume fiber, it adds bulk to your stool, making it softer and easier to pass. However, if you have problems with loose stools, that same bulking quality can actually help your bowel movements solidify and stop diarrhea.
There are numerous other benefits of consuming fiber too. Fiber contains prebiotics—food for your gut bacteria. It helps keep your stomach feeling balanced and healthy. If you often feel bloated, gassy, or sluggish, then fiber can help realign your digestive system.
Additionally, fiber helps you feel full. Even though fiber contains a lot of bulk, that bulk fills you up without adding calories to your meal. Fibrous foods often appear more abundant—think of a big leafy green salad over a tiny piece of cheese that might contain the same number of calories. It’s not that the cheese is bad for you, per se—it contains protein, calcium, and filling fat. But who feels full after just one piece of cheese?
Similarly, "bulking up" meals with fibrous foods like green vegetables can help you get that visual satisfaction crucial to dietary success. When you see a lot of food on your plate, you avoid those pangs of deprivation—those feelings that can lead to throwing in the towel and cheating on your diet.
Fiber also offers many other health benefits. Consuming enough fiber can help you keep your blood sugar levels steady. It will help you feel full and satisfied. It helps lower Type 2 diabetes risk. Fiber can lower your cholesterol and promote better blood pressure. Some studies show that diets high in fiber are better for heart health and can even help prevent certain types of cancer, like those of the GI tract.