Loading up on fiber might help you live longer, according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. And yet most Americans get very little in their diets – a paltry 14 grams of fiber, compared to the recommended 25 to 38 grams.

Researchers assessed the diets of more than 388,122 men and women and found that those who consumed the highest amount of dietary fiber (29.4 grams per day for men and 25.8 grams for women) were 22 percent less likely to die from any cause over the nine-year follow up period compared to those with the lowest intakes (12.6 grams for men and 10.8 grams for women).

Scientists aren’t clear on exactly how fiber lowers the risk of death, explains lead researcher Yikyung Park, staff scientist at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. – but they suspect fiber’s many health benefits, from lowering cholesterol to controlling blood sugar, could each play a role.

Although the study didn’t address people with arthritis, fiber might also play a role in reducing inflammation. Earlier research has linked fiber intake with lower C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation in the blood – so getting more fiber could help you live longer and feel better, too.

Where to Find the Fiber

Yes, you can add fiber to your diet by the spoonful with powdery supplements mixed into drinks, but experts say it’s a better idea to get as much fiber as you can from the food you eat. Fiber supplements don’t provide the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your body needs.

Fortunately, adding more fiber to your diet isn’t hard to accomplish – fiber is widely available in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Just one cup of beans (navy, black, pinto or garbanzo), for example, has about 20 grams of fiber. Berries, broccoli, apples and whole-grain cereals are good sources, too.