“It's better to have some fiber than no fiber. Fiber is your friend. Your body needs it.”

Many people want to eat better, but there is a lot of conflicting information when it comes to what foods are best for our bodies. Jennifer Linton, clinical dietitian nutritionist at Bayhealth, encourages incorporating fiber into your diet.

“Fiber is an essential nutrient because it helps to maintain several body systems,” says Linton. “There are many benefits to having a fiber-rich diet.”

Dietary fiber refers to indigestible substances found in plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

“A fiber-rich diet has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, Type II diabetes, and diverticular disease (inflammation of the intestines),” says Linton. “Fiber also provides bulk to stool and helps prevent constipation.”

Fiber may also help to sweep out toxins and carcinogens from the colon as well as maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the colon. Dietary fiber can also help control weight.

“High-fiber foods have more density, meaning they require more chewing time,” says Linton. “Those foods also sit longer in the stomach and help you feel fuller. This reduces snacking between meals which helps with weight management.”

Dietary fiber needs vary among age groups. The average person should consume 20-35 grams of fiber per day.  But be careful if you plan on incorporating fiber into your diet.

“Increasing fiber intake quickly can cause gastrointestinal discomfort and getting too much fiber may cause bloating and gas,” says Linton. “Make sure to increase your liquid intake if you are going to increase your fiber intake. This will help avoid discomfort and constipation.”

Fruits high in fiber include apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, and raspberries.

Carrots, beets, broccoli, and artichokes are fiber-rich vegetables. You can also incorporate fiber into your diet with oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, and wild rice.

While getting fiber from whole foods is best, supplements like fiber bars and fiber powders are a good alternative.

“It’s better to have some fiber than no fiber,” says Linton. “Fiber is your friend. Your body needs it.”