"Eat more fiber." It's a mantra echoed by health experts and nagging mothers alike, yet you're probably falling short: Adults are supposed to shoot for 20 to 30 grams each day, but a average person gets only about half that amount.
The problem is that many people eat a ton of highly processed foods, which have been stripped of most of their fiber (think white bread vs. the whole-grain stuff or a fruit "bar" instead of a piece of whole fruit). Fiber helps your digestive system run smoothly, but that's not the only reason to pay attention to this nutrient. Read on to find out exactly what can go wrong if you don't consume enough. It might just be the motivation you need to eat more beans (15 grams per cup) and raspberries (8 grams per cup) today!
You'll get all stopped up.
This one shouldn't come as much of a shock. After all, anyone who's ever watched TV has seen commercials for fiber supplements promising to "keep you regular." Fiber (aka roughage) does just that: This plant material that your body can't digest bulks up your poop, helping it move through your bowels. If you don't eat enough, things will start to get...uncomfortable. (And we mean really uncomfortable, since a common side effect of constipation is hemorrhoids.) As for those supplements, they're fine on occasion, but you should aim to get most of your fiber from the foods that you eat.
You'll be hungry.
Loaded up on grilled chicken at lunch? Unless you complemented it with greens or a whole grain like brown rice, you might find yourself headed back to the kitchen an hour later. A low-fiber diet—even if it's rich in protein—can leave you feeling constantly hungry. Fiber breaks down more slowly than other nutrients, so it keeps you feeling satisfied longer.
Your risk for heart disease could go up.
Many studies have shown that the more fiber you eat, the less likely you are to have high cholesterol. The probable reason why: Fiber doesn't break down in your body, and cholesterol clings to it as it passes through your digestive system. The cholesterol-fiber combo later gets flushed out of your body and down your toilet. Research has also shown that people who get more fiber are less likely to die of coronary heart disease. Meanwhile, fiber might aid weight loss (thanks to its ability to keep you feeling full), which furthers translates into helping your heart.
Your blood sugar might get out of whack.
If you eat foods that convert to fuel too quickly—say, a plain bagel with butter for breakfast or a candy bar around 3 pm—you might feel energized at first and pretty lousy later. That's because high-carb, low-fiber foods can quickly spike your blood sugar, setting you up for a subsequent drop that's just as rapid. That constant up and down not only leaves you lethargic, but it could also up your risk of diabetes, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. In fact, large studies have that found that people who eat mostly low-fiber, high-glycemic foods (which raise blood sugar quickly) are more than twice as likely as fiber fans to develop type 2 diabetes.
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