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You probably know that fiber is an important ingredient for a healthy diet. But if you’re like most Americans, you aren’t getting nearly enough of it.

Though it’s best known as the nutrient that helps keep you regular, fiber has other major health benefits. That’s why doctors and nutritionists are urging people to prioritize it.

“I always joke that fiber is my favorite f-word,” says Caroline Susie, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A fiber-rich diet can help with weight management, blood sugar regulation, and cholesterol and blood pressure levels, she points out—all of which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death among U.S. adults.

People who consumed the highest amount of fiber were 15% to 30% less likely to die from cardiovascular-related events compared to those who ate the lowest amount, according to a 2019 meta-analysis published in The Lancet. And an older study published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke found that a person’s first-time stroke risk dropped by 7% for every 7-gram fiber increase in their daily diet.

Aside from reducing disease risk, adequate fiber intake can improve your quality of life through better gastrointestinal health and improved energy levels, Dr. Mona Bahouth, stroke neurologist and Assistant Professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins Hospital, tells Fortune. “A balanced diet including healthy fiber has the potential to influence long-term wellness and brain health for all,” she says.

Here’s what you need to know to transition to a high-fiber diet.

What is fiber?
Fiber is a carbohydrate found in plant-based foods that can’t be completely digested by the body. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. They’re found in different sources, but both are good for you and serve similar functions in your body.

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