Fiber is a nutrient that’s critical for optimal health.
Only found in plant foods, eating enough fiber is associated with a lower risk of numerous chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, digestive conditions, and obesity (1, 2, 3, 4).
This is largely attributed to the way fiber supports your beneficial gut bacteria. These bacteria have a significant influence on your overall health (1, 2, 3, 4).
Surveys show that most people, particularly in Western countries, only eat around half of their minimum recommended fiber, or around 15 grams per day. Only an estimated 5% of the U.S. population meets their minimum daily fiber intake (5, 6).
This article presents some of the best sources of fiber you can eat, how much fiber to aim for, and whether fiber supplements are a good idea.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both are important for your health and behave in different ways in your digestive system.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like consistency. It helps reduce elevated cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar regulation (7, 8).
Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and stays mostly intact as it travels through your digestive system. It’s especially good for reducing constipation by bulking up the stool and helping it move through your intestines (9).
The good news is that you can find both types of fiber in foods in varying amounts. In fact, the best way to meet your needs for both types of fiber is to simply include a wide variety of plant foods in your diet.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber helps reduce high cholesterol and manage blood sugar, while insoluble fiber helps alleviate constipation. Both are important and can be found in plant foods.
Fiber is naturally found in whole plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Animal products, such as meat, dairy, eggs, and seafood, do not contribute fiber to your diet.
Below is a chart that shows some of the best sources of fiber you can include in your diet.
Note that the % Daily Value (DV) is based on a minimum of 30 grams, which is approximately the average minimum daily need for adult men and women (5, 10, 11).
The above foods are great sources of fiber. They’re exclusively plant foods, as animal foods like meat or dairy don’t offer any fiber.
As you can see from the table above, the best sources of fiber are whole plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
There’s more fiber in whole grain foods, like whole wheat pasta and bread, than there is in white, refined versions of these items. Additionally, you get more fiber by eating whole fruits and vegetables than by drinking juices made from them.
Because of low intakes among the population and since getting too little fiber is associated with poor health outcomes, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 have identified fiber as a nutrient of public health concern (12).
The general recommendations for fiber intake are 25 grams per day for adult women and 38 grams per day for adult men. Over the age of 50, this changes to 21 grams and 30 grams per day, respectively (5, 10).
Many sources simplify this by recommending that every adult gets at least 30 grams of fiber per day since this is approximately the average of the minimum requirement for adult men and women.
Keep in mind that 30 grams per day is a starting point, and eating moderately more than that is optimal. Plus, it’s easy to do when you add more plant foods to your diet.
However, getting too much fiber too soon can cause symptoms like bloating for some people. If you’re not used to eating the minimum amount of fiber, it’s a good idea to increase your intake slowly and drink more water to minimize any symptoms (13).
The best sources of fiber are whole grains and other plants in their whole form, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Aim for at least 30 grams per day. If you’re not used to eating much fiber, start small and increase gradually with plenty of fluids.
When individuals don’t get enough fiber and experience symptoms like constipation, it’s common for healthcare professionals to recommend fiber supplements to get things moving.
While supplements can be helpful in certain short-term situations, it’s best not to rely on them to meet your daily fiber needs.
Instead, it’s a good idea to prioritize whole food sources of fiber on a regular basis.
Whole foods provide other healthy nutrients in addition to their fiber. For instance, fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are important for your overall health, immune function, and disease prevention (14).
If you do need to use a fiber supplement, look for one that’s free from a long list of extra ingredients, artificial flavors, and colors. Opt for one that can be easily dosed, allowing you to start small and gradually increase only if needed.
You might also choose a supplement that contains prebiotics. Prebiotics act as food for your healthy gut bacteria and support overall health (15).
If you have difficulty getting enough fiber in your diet, experience constipation, or are unsure if fiber supplements are a good option for you, it’s a good idea to talk with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for tailored advice.
Whole plant foods should be your go-to source of fiber, as they’re also packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fiber supplements are sometimes used for short-term treatments of symptoms like constipation.
Fiber is a critical nutrient for health. Getting enough in your diet on a regular basis has been shown to lower your risk of numerous chronic diseases.
The only place that fiber is naturally found is in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. These should be your main source of this nutrient.
You can also find fiber in supplement form. It can be useful for short-term situations like helping alleviate constipation, but it shouldn’t work as your main fiber source.
The recommended daily minimum amount of fiber is 25 grams for adult women and 38 grams for adult men. Aim for at least this much on a regular basis, and preferably more, for the most health benefits.
Try this today: If you’re not used to eating fiber-rich foods on a regular basis, add just 1–2 new sources to your day to start.
For instance, swap white bread for whole wheat bread or grab an orange in place of orange juice to add a few extra grams of the nutrient.
Last medically reviewed on March 8, 2022
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Mar 8, 2022
Medically Reviewed By
Jared Meacham, Ph.D., RD, PMP, MBA, CSCS
Copy Edited By
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Fiber is a nutrient that’s critical for optimal health.