If you haven’t yet heard that a high-fiber diet is good for your heart, I would be surprised. For years nutrition experts, including myself, have been telling people to eat more fiber not only to support heart health, but also digestive health, which is the foundation for total-body health. A new study published in The American Journal of Medicine analyzed data from over 23,000 people to examine the role of dietary fiber in heart health.

The researchers found that dietary fiber intake was consistently lower than the recommended amounts. The Institute of Medicine recommends 38 grams of fiber per day for men aged 19 to 50 years, 30 grams per day for men over 50, 25 grams for women aged 19 to 50, and 21 grams for women over 50. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily. Yet the study participants only averaged a daily fiber intake of 16.2 grams.

Further, those participants with the lowest intake of dietary fiber had the highest prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk, metabolic syndrome, inflammation, and obesity; and those participants with the highest intake of fiber had the lowest risk of these conditions. “Low dietary fiber intake from 1999 to 2010 in the United States and associations between higher dietary fiber and a lower prevalence of cardiometabolic risks suggest the need to develop new strategies and policies to increase dietary fiber intake,” noted Cheryl R. Clark, MD, ScD, lead researcher. Here, here.

There are two great ways to increase your daily fiber intake: increase your consumption of non-starchy fruits and vegetables and add a fiber supplement to be sure you reach the recommended daily amounts. Your heart will thank you.