Fiber is an amazing compound that not only keeps you full, but keeps you regular, controls insulin and keeps your good bacteria happy and healthy. There are two forms of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is fiber that can dissolve in water, this fiber is fermented in the colon and is responsible for satiety by slowing gastric emptying.
Insoluble fiber is fiber that does not dissolve in water, this is the fiber that is classed as “bulky”. It is used to absorb water, and is effective at improving stool consistency. The recommended amount of fiber per day is around 15-20g per 1,000 calories, so if you are supposed to be consuming 2,000 calories you should have 30-40g of fiber (1, 2).
Best Fiber Supplements
1. Viva Naturals Organic Psyllium Husks
Viva natural’s is all-natural and is made with ethically sourced ingredients and makes a great choice for multiple diets and lifestyles including vegans, vegetarians, paleo, and keto.
Viva’s psyllium husk powder contains up to 14% of the required dietary fiber intake in a day. For these reasons, it’s our #1 pick.
2. Optimum Nutrition Fitness Fiber
The Optimum Nutrition Fitness Fiber allows for those committed to their workout routine to partake in additional fiber while keeping their bodies in tip-top shape. This option comes unflavored so it is ideal as an addition to protein shakes or other drinks for an enhanced effect.
Additionally, all products sold through this company are GMP certified and have a high rate of success. This is worth a try if you are looking for not only a boost in your fiber but also athletic performance.
3. Garden of Life Raw Fiber
While some fiber supplements may be designed for a simple increase in daily intake, the Garden of Life Raw Fiber is designed for those looking for constipation relief. Though this can be found in the form of laxatives, this product provides a gentler and safer form of relief.
Constipation relief aside, this option has a very natural ingredient list and proves to be friendly for many different lifestyles including vegans and vegetarians. Relief is provided through the support of gut functionality and health and works to ensure long-term success and change.
4. Benefiber Daily Prebiotic Dietary Fiber Supplement
This particular product stands out from the crowd due to its gentle effects on the digestive system. Though it can be used to assist in constipation relief, it is primarily designed as a proactive approach to digestive health.
Gentle enough to be used with children, this all-natural, non-GMO, and sugar-free fiber supplement provides everyone a safe alternative to some other options available on the market. Additionally, the sugar – free component allows for mixture into multiple food and drinks.
5. Citrucel Caplets Fiber Therapy
Though powders are extremely popular in the market of constipation therapy, there are other options available. For those looking for an alternative, Citrucel has created a caplet to relieve constipation.
This fiber supplement uses a non–irritating formula to gently assist in the mobility and health of the digestive system. It is also made of non – allergenic products to reduce the threat of an allergic reaction or sensitivity.
6. Fiber Choice Daily Prebiotic Fiber Supplement
Made of inulin, a natural fiber found in fruits and vegetables, Fiber Choice’s daily prebiotic supplement stimulates the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Designed to help prevent constipation before it starts, this product has multiple positive aspects to consider.
The chewable tablet form allows users to choose something different and to conveniently take their supplements at a time that’s right for their lifestyle. Also made from all-natural ingredients, the sugar – free aspect allows for a much healthier alternative as well.
7. MetaMucil Sugar Free
One of the most popular brands, Metamucil has taken heat over the years due to its high sugar content. However, in the past few years, they’ve smartened up and went sugar-free, making them one of the best options on the market.
Metamucil also tastes amazing, which is a big benefit since most fiber supplements are pretty bland.
8. NutriSource Fiber Supplement Powder
Another natural option for those looking to enhance their fiber intake while also maintaining a healthier lifestyle. The NurtiSource fiber supplement is not only appropriate for multiple diets and lifestyles, but also multiple age groups.
Manufactured by Nestle, this fiber supplement is available in both pediatric and adult form and supports digestive health with a gentler formula than its counterparts. If you’re looking for something the whole family can benefit from, this is an excellent choice to consider.
9. SmartyPants Kids Formula & Fiber Daily
The SmartyPants fiber supplements come in a delightful gummy form to promote interest and digestive health for kids.
As a multivitamin, this option provides 14 essential nutrients designed to increase the flow of digestion in children. It is comprised of completely natural ingredients and free of all artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives.
10. Norcal Organic Fiber Supplement
Made of 100% non–GMO organic fiber, Norcal’s organic fiber supplement takes its production of fiber one -step further than most of their counterparts. This fiber supplement not only boasts the use of soluble fiber, but also insoluble fiber.
This prebiotic supports healthy digestion and a healthy lifestyle for all consumers. Additionally, this particular option is GMO, gluten, and soy-free making it an easy option for those with multiple sensitivities to food and/or preservatives.
How We Rank
The first, and most important thing we looked at when ranking our supplements as if the supplement was actually a fiber supplement or was it something else with fiber added – like a meal replacement or weight gaining powder. Anything that was not a pure fiber supplement was tossed immediately.
Next, we looked at the sugar content. Was it high in sugar, or did it use sweeteners or other natural flavors? We placed emphasis on those who used natural flavoring. Metamucil, one of the most popular brands, finally made the list because it decided to offer a sugar-free version of its fiber supplement. Lesser-known products like ON Fitness Fiber ended up much higher in the rankings than blockbuster best-sellers like Metamucil, which still uses artificial color and flavorings.
Third, we looked at the type of fiber. Supplements with psyllium husk were prioritized since they are all-natural. We also looked at the delivery method. Powders, like Viva, were preferred over capsules because they could be added to shakes and meal replacement formulas easily.
Lastly, we looked at the flavoring. Because fiber supplements should be taken over a long time, they need to taste good for someone to use them consistently. Any product with bad taste was eliminated.
1. Dietary fiber can reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. There seems to be a large amount of evidence that backs up the claim that dietary fiber can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, but the mechanism for how is still unknown.
There are quite a few possibilities. Fiber can help lower cholesterol, reduce your risk of strokes, lower blood pressure, help with weight loss, and possibly prevent inflammation.
A 2002 study found that a higher intake of dietary fiber led to a reduced risk of CVD and of myocardial infarction (4).
Another study in 2003 found that consuming more fiber (particularly water-soluble fiber) reduces the likelihood of coronary heart disease (5).
A 1999 study found that a high fiber diet could protect against obesity and CVD by lowering insulin levels (6).
A 2006 study compared the effectiveness of dietary fiber and fiber supplements. It found that while fiber supplements were more effective at reducing CVD risk factors, there was a lower incidence of CVD linked to diets that featured a lot of food-based fiber primarily from whole grains, fruits and vegetables (7).
One of the possible reasons why fiber is so effective at protecting the heart is the fact that fiber is protective against high C-reactive protein (8).
C-reactive protein (CRP) is produced in the liver as a response to inflammation, and many doctors see high CRP levels as an indicator of a possible heart attack or stroke. Studies have found that fiber can reduce C-reactive protein levels and this could be responsible for the protective effect it has on the heart (9).
2. Fiber may help with weight management. There is quite a lot of evidence that high fiber diets can help with weight management, but not too much consensus on how exactly. It could be due to increased satiety, studies have shown that foods containing resistant starch and corn bran can help treat obesity (10, 11).
Fiber could also help reduce the absorption of macronutrients, which is sort of what some carb blocking supplements claim.
Whatever the reasons, increasing fiber does seem to help people lose weight. The most likely reason for this is increased satiety, but also the transformation of a diet that has very low fiber to one that is higher in fiber is also more nutrient-rich.
3. Fiber may help improve gut health through increasing “friendly” bacteria. Because fiber isn’t digested in the small intestine it is left in the colon and ferments.
This creates a perfect environment for gut microbiota and could explain why fiber has been repeatedly linked with an increase in friendly bacteria, and improved gut health (12).
A study in Science (2011) found that the microbiome of 10 subjects changed within 24 hours of ingesting a low fat/ high fiber diet (13).
A study that looked at the mechanism behind dietary fibers effect on the microbiome, they hypothesized that “dietary fiber resists digestion in the small intestine, and enters the colon where it is fermented to produce [short chain fatty acids] that may enhance the healthy composition of gut microbiota.” (14).
4. Fiber can regulate blood sugar and prevent diabetes. Fiber helps to control blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugars. Because of this, high fiber diets are promoted as a preventative measure for type II diabetes (15).
This diet is also used to help people who already have type II diabetes as fiber helps “improve glycemic control, decreases hyperinsulinemia, and lowers plasma concentrations” (16).
5. Increasing fiber can help improve chronic constipation. Chronic constipation affects 20% of the population. A study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology (2004) estimated that it affected 63 million people in North America alone (17).
While it is not as simple as throwing fiber at the problem, studies have indicated that increasing fiber can help improve chronic constipation, though this depends on what the cause of the constipation was in the first place.
A study on children with chronic constipation found that not consuming the recommended daily amount of fiber was a risk factor for chronic constipation (18).
A meta-analysis of the effects of dietary fiber on chronic constipation found that while fiber was effective at increasing stool frequency, it did not improve “stool consistency, treatment success, laxative use, and painful defecation” in the five included studies (19).
In other words, fiber can help, but it won’t solve the problem completely.
A study on elderly people with chronic constipation came to the same conclusion. While fiber helped improve their situation and sped up colonic transit time, it did not cure the underlying cause (20).
6. Fiber can reduce the risk of strokes. Following on from the last point, there is also a lot of evidence that dietary fiber is effective at stroke risk reduction. A 2013 study by Threapleton found that high fiber intake was “significantly associated with a lower risk of the first stroke” (21).
Another study, in 2005 found that while diets that were high in refined carbohydrates increased stroke risk, “high consumption of cereal fiber was associated with a lower risk of total and hemorrhagic stroke” in women (22).
There have been lots of studies that have found that diets high in fruit and vegetables (excellent sources of fiber) have helped reduce stroke risk (23, 24).
The studies all found that fiber was a contributing factor, but so was magnesium, calcium, and potassium (25).
After reviewing the evidence, it seems apparent that the evidence for fruits, vegetables, and grains being good protection against strokes is good (26). Supplementing with fiber should also be an effective strategy.
7. LDL-cholesterol and total cholesterol are both lowered by high fiber diets. There seems to be a lot of evidence that fiber can help reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and lower total cholesterol levels. Soluble fibers such as β-glucan have been shown to reduce serum cholesterol in people with high cholesterol levels (27).
But it wasn’t just β-glucan that had a positive effect on the reduction of total cholesterol, a meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that “various soluble fibers reduce total and LDL cholesterol by similar amounts” (28).
Fiber reduces cholesterol by reducing the amount of bile absorbed in your intestines. The bile is then eliminated through stool which causes an increase in bile salts production, made from cholesterol. LDL receptors are increased to capture more cholesterol from the bloodstream to use for the bile salts (29). The result is overall reduced cholesterol levels.
8. Fiber may prevent colorectal cancer (also known as bowel cancer). The debate about whether fiber helps reduce colorectal cancer risk or not has still to be settled. While older studies failed to find substantial evidence that dietary fiber protects against colorectal cancer, newer research is more convincing (30, 31).
A study on Finnish men in 1999 found that dietary fiber was not associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer (32).
On the other hand, a study in 2007 found that the intake of fiber-rich foods is inversely associated with colon cancer in men (33).
Probably the best explanation of what is going on is in this 2001 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (34).
It found that “individuals who consume very low amounts of fruit and vegetables have the greatest risk of colorectal cancer” but that consuming relatively high amounts of fiber from non-vegetable or fruit sources did not lower the risk. In other words, fruits and vegetables are irreplaceable for long-term health.
Another study found that there was a correlation between dietary fiber intake and reduced risk of colorectal cancer (35).
However, when other lifestyle factors were taken into account the correlation became non-significant. People who have bad diets are more at risk of colorectal cancer, and they also have low fiber, but this does not necessarily equal that high fiber intakes are effective at protecting against cancer. Other lifestyle factors are likely also to influence risk.
A 2007 study found that increased whole-grain consumption was associated with a small reduction in cancer risk, but that total fiber intake was not (36).
While a further meta-analysis found evidence that “the majority of studies gave support for a protective effect associated with fiber-rich diets” (37).
While the esophagus is certainly higher in the gastrointestinal tract that the colon, research supports a high fiber diet for reduced risk of esophageal cancer (38).
On the whole, the evidence for dietary fiber preventing colorectal cancer is slim. But increasing your fiber intake if your current level is low would be a really good idea. High fiber may not prevent colon cancer by itself, but low fiber, especially from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables as well as other unhealthy lifestyle choices, may increase your risk for many diseases.
Finally, we’ll take a quick look at four common fiber supplement ingredients: Chia seeds, Psyllium, and Yacon.
- Chia Seeds create appetite suppression and lower blood glucose (39)
- Psyllium reduces LDL and total cholesterol (40, 41, 42)
- Yacon reduces LDL cholesterol and body weight (43). It also increases the speed of food transport through the body (intestinal motility). It’s good for people with chronic constipation (44).
- Chicory root inulin is a prebiotic fiber that feeds healthy gut bacteria and may improve constipation (45).
9. Soluble fiber can help reduce belly fat. As discussed previously, fiber is divided into two categories – soluble and insoluble. Though they are both fiber, they are differentiated by how they interact with the water found in the human body.
While insoluble fiber does not mix well with water and serves mostly as a bulking agent, soluble fiber acts in an opposing manner. Soluble fiber, such as beta-glucan and glucomannan, works well with the water found in the human body and slows down how quickly the stomach releases digested food into the gut.
A higher intake of soluble fiber can help consumers lose belly fat and prevent gaining additional belly fat as well. Some studies have shown that a 10-gram increase in daily soluble fiber intake can decrease the risk of gaining belly fat by 3.7% (46)
Soluble fiber is specially designed to reduce belly fat due to its effects on gut bacteria. Overall, there are trillions of bacteria living in your gut. Helpful bacteria are completely harmless and share a mutually beneficial relationship with their human hosts.
This good bacteria helps to control a variety of conditions and determine different reactions within the body. Though not fully clear, studies have indicated that those who consume more soluble fiber have a wider variety of bacteria within their digestive system
The human body cannot digest fiber in its natural form, so once fiber reaches the gut, it is largely unchanged. Once there, the human gut will use specific enzymes to digest soluble fiber using a process called fermentation.
During fermentation, the soluble fiber is broken down and a group of short-chain fatty acids is produced. These short-chain fatty acids help to regulate fat metabolism by increasing the rate of fat burning or decreasing the rate of fat storage. At present, the reasoning behind this still remains unknown though it has been proven in several studies
10. Soluble fiber helps to reduce appetite, which promotes weight loss. Though belly fat maintenance is an important function of soluble fiber, this type of fiber also helps to reduce appetite. Ultimately, this assists in the process of weight loss
Soluble fiber acts as a natural appetite suppressant. By consuming foods higher in soluble fiber, there is less of a need to consume empty or fattening calories consistently. This will inevitably help with losing weight. Additionally, however, there are several additional theories as to why and how soluble fiber helps to reduce appetite.
First, soluble fiber regulates hormonal changes in the body. Eating soluble fiber reduces the levels of hunger hormones made within the body. This would include ghrelin. Some studies have also shown that soluble fiber causes hormone production to increase. Specifically, it causes an increase in hormones that make you feel full. Inevitably, this is a perfect recipe for weight loss to occur.
Secondly, soluble fiber slows the process of digestion. As digestion slows, the food moving throughout the gut will also decrease in speed. When various nutrients such as glucose are slowly released into the gut, the body will also release insulin at a slower rate as well. The slow-release in insulin allows for a reduced sense of hunger.
11. High fiber diets are a great help to pregnant women. During pregnancy, there are many health issues that arise. One of the most common symptoms that can occur throughout the course of nine months, is constipation.
he rate of digestion slows during pregnancy for several reasons. During early pregnancy, progesterone increases within the body. This hormone serves to relax the muscles and slow digestion. This is released to promote a healthy baby and support growth.
Later in pregnancy, the digestion rate is further decreased due to the rapid growth of the uterus. As the months pass during pregnancy, the baby grows in size thus crowding the intestines within the gut. As this is unavoidable, it is important that pregnant work to ensure their body is still able to rid itself of waste at a normal rate if at all possible
Rather than take over-the-counter stool softeners, doctors highly recommend that pregnant women partake in 25 – 30 grams of fiber per day, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Additionally, pregnant women should also drink plenty of water.
1. Fiber can sometimes worsen chronic constipation. In an article published in the Journal of Gastroenterology, the authors write: “A diet poor in fiber should not be assumed to be the cause of chronic constipation. Some patients may be helped by a fiber-rich diet but many patients with more severe constipation get worse symptoms” (47).
2. High fiber diets may lead to nutritional deficiencies. Studies have found that a high fiber diet, without heme iron sources (like red meat) in the diet as well, can actually inhibit the absorption of iron and zinc. This is due to the presence of anti-nutrients like phytates, lignans and other substances found in high fiber foods that reduce the absorption of some nutrients.
A 1992 study found that these anti-nutrients, more than the fiber present in the bread, prevented the absorption of iron. The study also determined that fermentation significantly reduced the anti-nutrients’ effect on iron absorption (48).
A supplement (not diet) study found that certain fibers can reduce the absorption of carotenoids (an organic pigment that is found in foods such as carrots and tomatoes which can help protect against certain cancers) (49).
3. High fiber diets can cause intestinal blockage in some consumers. Though the threat of taking too much fiber could prove to be a minor inconvenience for some consumers, others may experience a condition that could be life-threatening.
Chron’s Disease can cause a narrowing of a section within the intestines due to severe inflammation. This stricture, as it is called, can block or slow the passage of stool or digested food as it moves through the bowels. This can ultimately lead to constipation and cause a myriad of issues.
Depending on the type of fiber being consumed, those suffering from Crohn’s Disease may have an increased probability of experiencing an intestinal blockage. Though this is the case, those consuming this type of diet should not automatically assume the fiber is the source of their issue.
It is important that a physician is always consulted before beginning a new diet routine or making substantial lifestyle changes.
4. Fiber supplements could become habit-forming. While this may sound unlikely or even unthinkable, it is very possible. The vast majority of Americans use fiber as a means to ensure their bodies remove waste as intended.
When this does not naturally occur, however, many turn to laxatives for assistance. These laxatives come in many forms including fiber supplements. As many of these contain a stimulant to produce the required effect, they can become addictive. This also occurs due to your body developing a habitual function as a result of the laxative.
Once the pattern has started, it can prove very difficult to stop. Due to multiple physical and psychological factors, those who become dependent on this particular fiber enhancing options must eventually seek professional assistance in most cases.
Long-term effects that may result from the misuse of fiber supplements include dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities, constipation, and blood in the stool
Currently, the American National Academy of Sciences and the European Commission recommends 38g of fiber per day for men who are between 14 and 50 years old, and 30g for men 50+ years old. Women 19-50 years old should consume 25g per day while women 50+ years old should consume 21g (50, 51).
Does fiber help you poop? Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool, helping the stool pass more quickly through the intestines.
Does fiber block protein absorption? No studies to date have confirmed fiber’s effect on protein absorption, but it’s likely a small effect.
Does fiber make you fart? An increase in total fiber, especially a jump too quickly can cause gas and bloating. The best rule of thumb is to take it slow and gradually increase your fiber intake.
Does fiber make you fat? Dietary fiber doesn’t make you gain weight, but it may help you lose weight by increasing satiety and nourishing gut bacteria.
Does fiber cancel out sugar? While fiber does not cancel out carbs or sugar, high-fiber foods are typically digested slower, which makes them less likely to spike insulin or be stored as body fat.
Does fiber count as calories? There’s no clear consensus on fiber’s caloric contribution since it often cannot be digested and absorbed in the small intestine like other nutrients. Fiber does feed gut bacteria so there is potential energy or calories that may be discovered in future studies. The calorie intake is likely very minimal though compared to other macronutrients.
Which foods are high in fiber? Foods that are good sources of fiber include most beans, lentils, peas, whole fruits, potatoes with skin, chia seeds, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale), nuts, seeds, quinoa, barley, avocado, and dark leafy greens.
Can high fiber diets help prevent hemorrhoids? High fiber diets are a great step in the fight to avoid or prevent the formation of hemorrhoids. Everyone has hemorrhoids, a small collection of arteries and veins located in the anal region. Diets rich in fiber produce large, soft stools that pass through the colon easily and quickly. The lack of straining needed helps to ensure hemorrhoids to become inflamed.
Can high fiber diets help prevent diverticulosis? Diverticulosis occurs when pockets protrude from the bowel wall. These pockets, known as diverticula, happen gradually over time and are generally caused by excess pressure within the bowel. Though they cause no problem, generally, they can rupture and become infected
A high-fiber diet produces a better quality stool which allows for easy and quick passage through the bowel. Diverticula formation may be reduced or possibly stopped with a diet consisting of food that aids in healthy stool production.
How does fiber affect irritable bowel syndrome? Characterized by acute episodes of abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, or diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS can be greatly benefitted through the consumption of a high-fiber diet. The soft, bulky stools produced can ease discomfort often found with this disorder. It is important to visit a physician if these symptoms become chronic or alarming.
Can high fiber diet symptoms be relieved? As a high-fiber diet can cause some discomfort, it is important to know when you’ve possibly had too much of a good thing. If you experience constipation, bloating, or abdominal discomfort, this could be a sign of a high-fiber diet that has gone wrong. This can be relieved by drinking plenty of water, avoiding high-fiber foods for a bit, and eating a more bland diet.
Are high fiber diets good for pre-workout routines? Fiber is a good agent for weight loss, but you may want to skip the high-fiber breakfast before going to the gym. High-fiber meals within an hour of a workout could cause an upset stomach after the workout has been completed. Fat slows the digestive process and as you will be burning fat during a workout, this is counterproductive
Which type of fiber is best? Though fiber is a great addition to any diet and is important for overall health, fibers that are soluble, viscous, and fermentable appear to be the healthiest options. This would include foods such as vegetables, fruits, oats, legumes, or even chia seeds.
Is a high fiber diet okay during pregnancy? Eating a mix of fibers during pregnancy is not only okay, but it is also highly recommended. Fiber helps to not only ensure a healthier baby but also helps the mother maintain consistent digestive health.
Do high fiber diets help prevent rectal bleeding? High-fiber diets produce better quality stools. Stools that are both soft and bulky will pass more easily through the colon. This means less straining and work must be done to expel the stool. As a result of the decrease In straining, there is less of a chance for rectal bleeding to occur.
Is fiber a carbohydrate? What most people don’t know is that fiber is actually a form of carbohydrate. Unlike other carbohydrates, such as sugar or starch, it is not digested in the small intestine. Instead, it travels to the right side of the colon (known as the cecum) and is fermented by bacteria.
Where do we get our fiber? Most of the fiber that we consume during the day is from our diet. Foods such as wholegrain bread, cereals, oats, and pasta are common sources of fiber. Other examples of high fiber foods include; fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and pulses (beans, lentils, and peas).
Can low carb diets have an effect on fiber intake? A low carb diet has its place in weight and disease management, but it may also result in a low fiber diet if not carefully planned. This is true for ketogenic diets as well as others.
What are good fiber-rich sources? Excellent fiber-rich sources include legumes, vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds, and some whole grains.
The simple fact is that a diet that is low in fiber has been shown to increase the risk of cancer, CVD, chronic constipation, and diabetes. Whether that is due to the lack of fiber, or due to poor overall nutrition that happens to include low fiber is irrelevant. Every adult should be aiming to hit their daily target of at least 18g of fiber with high fiber food sources.
Though fiber supplements definitely seem to have their place, you should really be concentrating on improving your fiber intake through diet. A high fiber diet, one where you are consuming significantly more than the recommended daily intake should be reconsidered. There appear to be no significant benefits to increasing fiber past your recommended levels, and there could even be some side effects. The effect of fiber on the absorption of iron should be of particular concern to women who are menstruating or pregnant as iron is an important micronutrient that prevents anemia.
As is almost always the case, people hear that there are benefits to a type of food or supplement and decide to overdo it. Instead of just hitting their targets for the day, they believe that doubling their intake will double the benefits. Nutrition is never that simple.
For Healthtrends #1 Fiber recommendation, click here.