“Fiber helps to balance blood sugar levels in the body,” says New York City-based dietitian Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN. “Fiber helps with digestion, regularity, and elimination. It helps remove excess hormones from the body and can help with lowering cholesterol levels. It [also] helps to manage hunger levels, prevent cravings, and maintain energy levels.”
Additionally, according to Christine Byrne, MPH, RD, LDN, a non-diet dietitian based in Raleigh, North Carolina, certain fermentable fibers, or prebiotics, lend to a healthy gut microbiome since they feed the prebiotics in your gut.
In that way, fiber is something of a miracle worker for the body. The problem is, given the many unhealthy (and less healthy) options on the market, fiber-rich diets aren’t exactly the norm. That’s because fiber is found in plant foods, and Shapiro says that a naturally high-fiber diet is one that prioritizes whole foods over processed foods. So, since not everyone has the desire to eat fiber-rich plant-based foods, fiber supplements exist to help pick up the slack.
Keep reading to learn more about the different types of fiber supplements on the market.
Different Types of Fiber Supplements
When you head to your local drugstore and walk down the supplement aisle, you’ll be met with a variety of different fiber supplements. But don’t get overwhelmed. Byrne says that most fiber supplements on the market are similar, just marketed to different groups. “Fiber supplements for kids might have added flavorings and a smaller serving size,” she explains. “Fiber supplements marketed to pregnant women are made with psyllium husk, an insoluble fiber that’s particularly helpful in preventing constipation.”
Nature Made Wellness Ambassador Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN, says that another key differentiation between fiber supplements is that some are geared toward solely meeting dietary recommendations for the nutrient while others have intended goals. “[Some fiber supplements] can be used to promote good gut bacteria,” she says. “Other products contain different types of fiber to help manage specific symptoms related to gut health (constipation, diarrhea, etc.).”
Watch the video for more about the importance of gut health:
Overall, fiber supplement variation depends on the type of fiber used and the ingredients used in the product. Bannan says that fiber can be categorized as soluble or insoluble fiber, both of which cannot be digested or absorbed by the body. “Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance that passes through the digestive system,” she explains, noting that it has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels in the body, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease. “Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and adds bulk to help the movement of material through the digestive system. This can help prevent constipation or struggles with bowel movements.”
The Best Fiber Supplements
The best fiber supplements, like so many things, are subjective. What’s ideal for one person may be ineffective for someone else. It's important to speak with your doctor or personal dietitian before starting a fiber supplement regimen. With that in mind, below you’ll find a few of the best fiber supplements based on varying common key factors, according to registered dietitians.
The Best Prebiotic Fiber Supplement for Adults
The Best Fiber Supplement for Constipation
“If you’re really struggling with constipation, which is common particularly among older adults and in pregnancy, then an insoluble fiber supplement might be best,” Byrne says. “This one is made with psyllium husk, which contains both soluble and insoluble fiber to help keep you regular.”
(FYI: Although fiber supplements can help mitigate the effects of constipation, Bannan reminds us that many types of fiber interact differently in the gut. That said, she recommends speaking with your doctor and/or dietitian to determine the best one for you if gas, bloating, and GI symptoms are top of mind.)
The Best Fiber Supplement for Kids
The Proper Daily Serving of Fiber
Again, it’s subjective, varying for men and women, children and adults. “Based on the current dietary guidelines, individuals should aim for 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories,” Bannan says. In total, that means that women should aim for about 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should gear toward 38 grams—which you may realize is significantly more than a serving of the fiber supplements listed above.
“There’s no maximum for how much fiber you should take in supplement form, but it’s probably best not to get more than one-fourth of your daily fiber from supplements to prevent nasty side effects like gas, bloating, and digestive distress,” Byrne says.
A Final Word on Fiber Supplements
As beneficial as fiber supplements may seem, all of the experts we spoke with agree: It’s best to get the majority of your fiber from whole foods. “Supplements aren’t a substitute for nutritious food, but rather a way to fill any gaps in your diet that might be causing you problems,” Byrne says. “In fact, fiber supplements likely don’t have the same benefits as fiber-rich plant foods, because supplements are lacking in all the other nutrients that these foods provide. [So, while] fiber supplements might help prevent constipation, but they probably won’t lower your cholesterol or reduce your chronic disease risk.”
Tacking onto the idea of eating plenty of fiber-rich whole foods (like fruit, veggies, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts), Shapiiro says that it’s important to hone in on your hydration, too. “When you increase fiber you must also increase fluids to help the fiber work its way through your system,” she explains.
Watch the video for more tips from a dietitian about supplements:
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