4 Signs Your Diet Lacks Fiber

You know you should eat more fiber. Your doctor has told you so, the articles you read say so, and the health experts you see on TV definitely want you to. But do you actually need more fiber in your diet, and are there ways to tell? Fortunately, your body is quite good at letting you know if it needs more fiber. Here are some symptoms that may mean you're lacking this important nutrient:

Abnormal bowel movements. Just because you're used to a certain type of bowel movement doesn't mean it's healthy. Diets with plenty of fiber yield bowel movements that are bulky and soft and pass easily. If you experience small, hard stools or frequent constipation, chances are good that you aren't eating enough fiber. Diarrhea sufferers may also find relief upon eating more fiber, because fiber absorbs some of the water in the digestive system and bulks up the stool.

High cholesterol. High cholesterol can have several causes, but it shouldn't be a surprise that the condition often signals inadequate fiber intake. Fiber lowers levels of LDL, the "bad" cholesterol. It also reduces inflammation in the body and lowers blood pressure. 

High blood-sugar levels. Fiber is a boon to diabetics because it slows sugar's absorption in the body, meaning your blood-sugar levels may stabilize if you eat enough of it. You can also reduce your risk of developing diabetes in the first place by adding fiber to your diet.

You're overweight. Excess pounds can be a sign that your diet needs fiber. Yes, you need to cut your portions and move more, but you can do yourself a world of good simply by swapping out some of the foods you eat for more high-fiber fare. Why? For starters, you need to chew high-fiber food more, so it takes longer to eat. And the fiber fills you up and takes longer to leave your body, so you stay more satisfied for longer periods. You can even eat the same amount of high-fiber food that you do of less nutritious snacks and you'll probably drop pounds, since high-fiber food has fewer calories per gram.

While you can find fiber added to seemingly every product in the supermarket, the best way to make up for a lack of fiber is to eat foods that are naturally rich in it. You should aim for 25 grams a day if you're a woman under 50, or 21 grams if you're over 50. Good bets for meeting this benchmark include fruits and vegetables with the peel (if edible); whole-grain cereals, breads and pastas; brown rice; oats, and beans.