6 Sneaky Signs You're Not Eating Enough Fiber, According to a Dietitian
Fiber is a nutrition rockstar and eating more of it comes with some impressive health benefits. A diet high in fiber (read: fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds) can help make losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight overtime easier, it boosts gut health and helps you stay regular in the bathroom department, and it can even reduce your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. When you don't eat enough fiber, not only are you missing out on these amazing health benefits but you're also likely to experience some not-so-pleasant side effects. Though the symptoms of not eating enough fiber aren't always clear, here are 6 signs to watch for, plus easy ways to help yourself eat more fiber.
1. You are constipated
Having a hard time going number 2 is one of the more obvious symptoms you may have when you are not getting enough fiber in your diet. Fiber works by absorbing water, which leads to softer stools that are easier to pass through the digestive system. Fiber also acts like the bristles of a broom, sweeping things through your gut smoothly. If you find yourself consistently constipated, aim to add more fiber to each meal. Think oatmeal with fruit and chia seeds for breakfast, seeded crackers and hummus for a snack, a sandwich on whole-wheat bread for lunch and dinner that includes a healthy serving of a whole grain, like bulgur, whole-wheat pasta or quinoa.
Remember though, anytime you're eating more fiber, you also need to drink more water. Otherwise, you could become even more backed up.
2. You're hungry soon after eating
Your stomach empties slower when your meal is high in fiber, as fiber is broken down slowly and gradually. Additionally, fiber expands when it absorbs water, which also contributes to that feeling of fullness. And last but not least, high-fiber foods require more chewing and take longer for your stomach to digest. This sends a signal to your brain that you are full, which helps you eat less throughout the day. The result is that you'll feel satisfied for longer after a high fiber meal and less likely to feel hunger pangs an hour after eating. Low-fiber meals digest more quickly and thus, you feel hungry soon after. Even if you're including other filling foods, like healthy fats and protein, but still find yourself rooting through the pantry soon after, it's likely the lack of fiber.
3. You have high cholesterol
Fiber, specifically soluble fiber (the kind that absorbs water), has been shown to help lower cholesterol by reducing the absorption of cholesterol in your system and moving it out of the body before it can clog your arteries. For every 7 grams of fiber eaten daily, your risk of heart disease drops by 9 percent, as per a review of 22 studies published in the British Medical Journal. All the more reason to load your plate up with fiber-rich food, especially these sources of soluble fiber: oats, barley, beans and psyllium.
4. You have hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are swollen, painful veins in the lowest part of your rectum and anus and tend to develop when you are pushing during a bowel movement. Eating a high-fiber diet helps to soften stools, increase stool weight and reduces the time it spends in the colon, which results in stools that pass more easily.
5. You constantly feel tired and sluggish
Another perk of fiber is that it helps to balance blood sugar levels. The slower digestion that happens after a fiber-rich meal meals the glucose in food is also digested more slowly. This helps to prevent blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes, which is not only good for your energy levels but also good for your overall health. So, if you often find yourself feeling tired and sluggish, chances are you may need more fiber at your meals.
Related: 7-Day High-Fiber Diet Plan
6. You are having a hard time losing weight
Eating a high-fiber diet contributes to feelings of fullness and satisfaction. When your diet is low in fiber, you may constantly feel the need to snack throughout the day, which makes weight loss difficult. Fiber adds volume to your meals without adding any calories, which makes weight loss easier and more effective in the long run. Some research even suggests that fiber can bind with calories in food and prevent it from being absorbed altogether, which is like a built-in weight management benefit.
Try not to add too much fiber to your diet at once as you may get symptoms such as bloating, cramping or gas. These symptoms are temporary but can be uncomfortable. You can prevent these by increasing your fiber slowly as your body starts to adjust to a high-fiber diet. Be sure to drink more water as you increase the amount of fiber since water helps your body digest fiber and pass through easily.