Fiber: What it is and why you need more of it in your diet

(BPT) – Eat more fiber.

If your doctor didn’t give you this advice at your last checkup, she probably should have: 97 percent of Americans don’t get the recommended daily amount of dietary fiber they need to stay healthy. But what is fiber, and why is it good for you?

Dietary fiber, sometimes called “roughage,” is a plant-based carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains such as rice and wheat. Our bodies have a difficult time digesting fiber, which is actually a good thing — as fiber passes through the body undigested, it does a lot of good along the way!

Fiber has many proven health benefits. It has been shown to improve heart health, lower cholesterol, control blood sugar, decrease the risk of stroke, help you feel fuller longer, prevent constipation and boost digestive health and your immune system.

Experts like the Food and Drug Administration recommend we consume about 28 grams of fiber each day — which, it turns out, is a lot of food. You’d have to eat about 94 baby carrots, 47 stalks of celery, or 15 slices of whole-wheat bread to get your daily dose of fiber from food alone!

To help people get the fiber they need, the FDA has approved seven ingredients that can be taken as supplements or added to food to boost the amount of dietary fiber they contain. One of those ingredients you may find on your food label is cellulose gel, or microcrystalline cellulose.

Cellulose gel is derived from cellulose, an essential component of fruits, vegetables and trees. In fact, cellulose is so important to plants in nature, it is the most abundant organic compound on Earth!

Cellulose gel offers the same great health benefits as the dietary fiber we find in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and can be found in foods such as yogurt, cereal bars and protein shakes. So when cellulose gel or microcrystalline cellulose appears on your food label, it means you’re getting the same plant fiber found in broccoli and apples — without having to eat a lot of broccoli and apples (and without the hassle of cooking and meal planning!).

To learn more about cellulose gel and other food ingredients that make our favorite foods better for us, visit

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* I’m Susan Bowerman, Herbalife nutritionist. Most of us don’t eat as much fiber as we should, which is too bad since it offers so many benefits. Fiber, of course, helps move the digestive process along. High fiber foods are also filling, and fiber supports the growth of friendly bacteria in your digestive tract. But not all fibers function exactly the same way, which is why we often talk about two types of fiber — soluble fibers and insoluble fibers.

As the name suggests, soluble fibers are just that — they dissolve in water. And when these fibers dissolve, they thicken up. If you’ve ever cooked oatmeal at home, you probably noticed that as it cooks, it gets thick and gluey. That’s because the soluble fiber in the oats is dissolving in the liquid, which makes your oatmeal a little sticky. When these fibers come in contact with the liquid in your stomach, they swell up and thicken, so they help keep you full. Soluble fiber is also the type of fiber that the healthy bacteria in your lower digestive tract like to feed on, which encourages these friendly bacteria to multiply.

Insoluble fibers also support the health of your digestive tract, but in a different way. Insoluble fibers don’t dissolve in water — instead, they simply absorb water in the lower tract, which makes the fiber more bulky. This type of fiber, which is found in most vegetables and whole grains, speeds the passage of waste through your digestive system, so it helps to keep you regular.

Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but it’s actually fairly easy to tell the two fibers apart. When you make barley soup or boil potatoes, you can easily see how the liquid thickens up — that’s because barley and potatoes are high in soluble fiber. When you cook brown rice, which is rich in insoluble fiber, it doesn’t get sticky, it simply absorbs water as it cooks, causing the grains to swell up.

Take a look at how canned corn compares to canned beans. Both of these are packed in water, but the liquids look different. Corn is a grain and most of its fiber is insoluble, which is why the liquid from the can looks pretty much like water — it isn’t thick or sticky or gluey. But if you look at these canned beans that were packed in water, you can see that the liquid is much thicker. That’s because the water-soluble fiber in the beans has thickened up the liquid that the beans are packed in.

Since your body needs both types of fiber, it’s best to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Not only will you get both types of fiber, you’ll also benefit from the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that these healthy foods contain.

For more nutrition advice from Herbalife visit or take a look at my YouTube playlist:

Know your dietary fiber: A guide to soluble and insoluble fiber | Herbalife Advice Know your dietary fiber: A guide to soluble and insoluble fiber | Herbalife Advice

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