When you think of fiber what likely comes to mind is its amazing ability to prevent or relieve constipation. But did you know that fiber is also fantastic for heart health, blood sugar control, weight management and healthy digestion? It’s a true nutritional superstar!

The general recommendations for fiber are approximately 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. Unfortunately, the average American adult consumes a meager 10 to 15 grams per day thanks to the SAD (Standard American Diet). The SAD is typically low in fibrous vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, and high in processed foods, soda, juice and “foo foo” coffee drinks, which are all devoid of fabulous fiber. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors were likely eating 10 times the amount of fiber we eat today!

Fiber has myriad health benefits. In addition to normalizing bowel function, fiber keeps your heart happy by lowering cholesterol levels, reducing blood pressure and quelling inflammation.

For people concerned about blood sugar regulation, fiber slows the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream so you avoid debilitating symptoms caused by extreme blood sugar fluctuations.

If weight loss is a goal, high-fiber foods should be at the top of your list! They’re more filling than low-fiber foods so you eat less and stay full longer. In other words, you get more bang for your calorie buck.

Last but not least, your beneficial gut bacteria love to munch on fiber-rich foods. The good bugs in your gut modulate your immune system, metabolism and inflammatory response so it’s important to keep them well fed! These health-promoting microbes feast on dietary fiber that’s undigestbile by humans and transforms it into anti-inflammatory compounds that promote the growth of healthy cells in your digestive tract. Research has shown that gut bacteria starved of fiber will eat away at the lining of your gut wall, which can have serious health consequences.

I recommend eating a high-fiber diet every day for optimum health. The best approach is to load up on vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds. Gluten-free grains, like steel cut oats, are a good source of fiber (if well-tolerated).

Until next time, make every bite of fiber count!