Many of us are interested in digestive health. From reducing bloat to going No. 2 to improving our gut bacteria, we’re looking for food to help. Fiber is a superhero.

Fiber has powerful health benefits. It is best known for helping to keep food moving smoothly and regularly through your body, but this is only one of many ways that fiber contributes to good health. Fiber helps fight heart disease by lowering cholesterol, helps keep blood sugar stable and feeds our gut bacteria. Beans, nuts, seeds, cereals, fruits and vegetables are the best sources.

Unfortunately, for most of us, intake is about half what it should be. Men 19 to 30 years old need 34 grams of fiber per day. Those 31 to 50 need 31 grams of fiber, and those 51 and older should get 28 grams. Women 19 to 30 years old need 28 grams per day, 31 to 50 year olds need 25 grams, and those 51 and beyond need 21.

To reap all the benefits, I challenged myself to meet my daily recommendations. Here is what I found.

1. Must. Plan. Ahead.

My biggest takeaway is to plan. The winning ticket is to have fiber-rich foods on hand. It is much easier to eat high-fiber foods when they’re in the kitchen or fridge because these become meals and snacks. After my own challenge, I’m more aware of fiber so am using more fiber foods.

2. Cook once, eat more than that

Fiber isn’t just twigs and branches. It really can be delicious eating. I make a couple high-fiber recipes each week such as baked oatmeal, bean dip and this Black Bean Quinoa Salad. I add ground flax seed to granola, smoothies and oatmeal. I cut cucumbers, carrots and peppers so they are convenient snacks. I cook a whole grain such as spelt or bulgur to add to salads, soups or yogurt parfaits. I toast nuts for a snack and to add to salads or baked goods.

3. Snack successfully

Here are 5 fiber-focused snacks I eat:

6 Triscuits + nut/seed butter = 7 grams

16 almonds + 3 prunes = 5.5 grams

2 Wasa fiber crispbreads + hummus = 7 grams

Apple + peanut butter = 5 grams

2 T black bean dip + 12 baked corn tortilla chips = 3.5

4. Enjoy the results

An Australian study found people who reported higher fiber intake from eating whole grains, fruits and vegetables had an almost 80 percent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over a 10-year follow-up. That is, they were less likely to suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, dementia, depression and functional disability. It could be that these people had better food choices overall. Of course, it’s too soon to measure those effects from my challenge, but my energy level was good and the pay-off we normally don’t talk about: Trips to the bathroom were easier, quicker and more frequent.

Are you ready for your own fiber challenge? I created a free, five-day challenge you can find at You’ll get tips, tools and recipes to help you meet your fiber goal.

Judy Barbe is a registered dietitian, speaker and author of “Your 6-Week Guide to LiveBest: Simple Solutions for Fresh Food & Well-Being.” Visit her website for every day food solutions.