If You’re Reading This, You Probably Need to Eat More Fiber
There is an epidemic sweeping the nation, one that’s affecting people of all shapes and sizes. It causes bloating, cramping, endless cravings, and constipation bad enough to make you feel like you're excreting a slab of concrete into the toilet.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re a victim of this self-inflicted plague: not eating enough fiber.
Between the rise of fast food and the slow death of cooking, fiber has been kicked to the curb in the average dude’s diet. Look, we get it: those sweet, salty, fatty comfort foods do not suck in any way. But most of them lack the magic stuff that makes perfect poops and even helps you live longer: fiber.
So, what’s the fuss about fiber and why do we want to shove it down your throat (literally and figuratively)?
Keep reading, dude.
What Is Fiber, and Why Do You Need It?
Dietary fiber is the zero-calorie, indigestible portion of carbohydrates. Aside from those protein bars you crush, fiber is mostly found in fruits, veggies, legumes, and grains. We won’t get all science-y on you, but fiber is essential for keeping you full, keeping you healthy, and perhaps most importantly, keeping your poops smoother than a baby’s bottom.
But the party doesn’t stop there. Data shows that people who eat a bunch of fiber can lose as much weight as they can on fancy diets, even if they eat more calories in the process. As if that wasn’t enough to make you check all the nutrition facts in your pantry, people with high-fiber diets have a greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life.
In short, fiber rules.
3 Signs Your Body Is Begging for Fiber
If you’re fiber-deprived, you might know these three red flags all too well.
Your stomach is a bottomless pit
Fiber forms a gel-like material in your gut, slowing down the absorption of food in your digestive system. When you don’t get enough of it, you’re always hungry. This study found that guys who ate fiber-rich meals with beans and peas felt more full than guys who ate protein-packed meals with pork and beef.
You can’t poop
If your poop looks more like rabbit pellets than a smooth sausage (or if you straight up can’t poop), you’re probably constipated. The culprit? You guessed it: a fiber deficiency. Fiber attracts water, which is like lube for your poop. Skimp on the fiber and you’ll be on the toilet for days.
For more about what your poop says about your health, read this.
You’re always tired
Remember that day you felt groggy and had no energy left over to exercise? Or is that every day? Either way, you might be able to chalk that up to a fiber shortage as well. Fiber keeps your blood glucose levels stable, giving you ample energy throughout the day. Going without it is like relying on gas fumes to get you through a road trip.
Any of these sound familiar? Yeah, we thought so.
How Much Fiber Do You Actually Need?
Now that you’re on the fiber bandwagon, you’ll want to know the amount of fiber you need to get all the health benefits. Our friends over at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics say adult males should aim for 38 grams of fiber per day, which can help fight against health problems such as heart disease. Unfortunately, some of you heathens consume less than half of that—WTF, dudes?!
Upping your fiber intake isn’t rocket science. Aim for 12 grams of fiber per meal. Another option is adding some extra fibrous snacks throughout your day.
But wait, you say, I don’t know what foods have fiber in them. Which leads us to...
Your Fiber-Rich Shopping List
You don’t need a dietician or a doctor to tell you how to add high-fiber foods to your diet. Here’s a cheat sheet to keep in handy on your next trip to the grocery store. Your bowels will thank you later.
Switch Up Your Cereal
If you’re a grown-up, it might be time to ditch those colorful, sugar-saturated cereals that defined your childhood. I love a bowl of cookies for breakfast as much as the next guy, but let’s face it: they’re not doing your health any favors. Next time you’re in the cereal aisle, stock up on ones with a high fiber content: 5 or more grams per serving. Look for cereals with "whole grain," "bran" or "fiber" in the name. They’re not as sexy, but they do the trick on the toilet.
Go for Whole Grains
Good news: you can still enjoy bread, pasta, and rice. Just try to make at least half of them whole grains. Look for stuff that lists “whole wheat” or “whole grain” as the first ingredient on the label. Instead of white rice, grab some brown rice or wild rice. Cooking pasta? Whole grain noodles are your new best friend. Tacos or burritos? You guessed it: whole wheat tortillas.
Stock Up On Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals. Apples, bananas, blackberries, oranges, avocados, and strawberries all have about three to four grams of fiber. When it comes to the veggie department, the darker the better. Think broccoli, brussels sprouts, kidney beans, black beans, lentils, and beets. Artichokes are one of the highest-fiber veggies, clocking in at ten grams each.
If you eat five or more servings of these bad boys every day, you’re in good shape.
Swap Your Snacks
The snack aisle in the supermarket is a weakness for everyone. But most of those sugary, salty snacks you love have less fiber than Mr. Clean has hair. Here are some simple snack substitutions you can make to up your fiber game:
- Fresh fruits instead of fruit snacks
- Low-fat popcorn instead of potato chips
- Whole grain crackers instead of cheese puffs
- Hummus instead of salsa
- Nuts instead of pretzels
Fiber For the Win
It’s time for us to end this epidemic once and for all: no more cravings, cramps, or constipation. All jokes aside, this is serious stuff. We’re talking about your health here. So, order the broccoli instead of the fries next time you’re out to eat. For the love of all that is holy, just eat more fiber.