Dietary fiber is a valuable nutrient to the body’s digestive health, cholesterol levels, and heart health. The recommended daily intake of fiber is 20 grams for women and 30 grams for men, but the average person only gets half of the daily value. The side effects of eating too little fiber are centered around not receiving the benefits from eating fiber. Among the benefits lost as a side effect of eating too little fiber include issues relating to cholesterol, blood sugar, and stool hardness.
The main side effect of eating too little fiber is constipation and hardened stools. Fiber is a natural stool softener because it has binding properties. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University reports that fiber moves waste through the colon at an accelerated rate.
With sufficient fiber, stool becomes bulkier and more easily passed. However, with a diet that neglects fiber, stool hardens and its progress slows, causing constipation.
The side effects of eating too little fiber can also affect cholesterol levels and heart health. Consuming plenty of fiber can contribute to lower levels of LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein). UCLA reports that the binding properties of fiber causes the liver to take cholesterol from the bloodstream, reducing cholesterol levels in the body. According to the American Heart Association, a diet rich in fiber can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Eating too little fiber forfeits these benefits.
A diet rich in fiber contributes to the regulation of blood sugar. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, not getting enough fiber increases the risk of type two diabetes, particularly when coupled with a diet that includes an excess of foods high on the glycemic index. As such, a side effect of eating too little fiber is an increased risk of type two diabetes.
A diet rich in fiber is also useful in preventing and treating diverticular disease. Diverticular disease is a gastrointestinal condition involving intestinal inflammation. The Harvard School of Public Health reports that diets people who do not get much fiber may be associated with as much as a 40 percent higher risk of diverticular disease.
Some of the major sources of fiber include grains, fruits, and vegetables. Among the best grains for fiber are oatmeal, whole wheat products, bran muffins and cereals, and brown rice. Fruits rich in fiber include raspberries, blackberries, prunes, and apples. Beans, peas, and lentils are among the best vegetables for fiber. Significant fiber content is rarely found in processed foods.
The side effects of eating too little fiber include constipation, higher blood cholesterol, an increased risk of diabetes, and an increased risk of diverticular disease. To curb these side effects, between 20 to 30 grams of fiber should be consumed each day through whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Facts of fiber. Student Nutrition Awareness Campaign. University of California Los Angeles.
Fiber. American Heart Association.
Fiber. Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center. Oregon State University.
Fiber: Start roughing it! Harvard School of Public Health. Harvard University.