Let’s start with some facts about fiber. First, it’s an important part of a healthy eating pattern, along with carbs, fat, and protein (not to mention water). Second, it happens to be one of the most overlooked components of a healthy diet; according to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), more than 90% of women and 95% of men ages 19-50 in the United States are not consuming enough fiber from their diets. Third? Fiber comes with a host of health benefits, from supporting satiety and digestive health to regularity—so it just might be time to change that.* (1)
When it comes to building healthy new habits, knowledge is truly your friend: Taking the time to educate yourself on the foundations of fiber—understanding what it is, what it does, and how it supports the body—will enable you to understand the “why” behind what you’re doing, allowing you to make empowered decisions over the long-term. In this piece, we answer common fiber-related queries—covering everything from the different types of fiber and how they function in the body to high-fiber foods (and more). Let’s get into it.
Q: What is fiber?
Great question. To get really granular with it, fibers are non-starch carbohydrates and lignins that cannot be absorbed by the human stomach and/or intestinal enzymes—basically, a scientific way of saying that fiber refers to a type of carb that the body is unable to digest. (2)
Dietary fiber—the subject of this piece—specifically refers to edible fiber that can be found naturally in plant foods. Also known as roughage or bulk, it comes from parts of plant foods that our bodies are unable to absorb; this means that fiber passes through the digestive tract and out of the body (via bowel movements) fairly intact. (2, 3)