You’ve probably heard a lot about fiber… mostly that you should be getting more of it as part of an overall healthy, balanced diet. So it’s good for you… but just what is this stuff, and how does it work in the body?
Fiber is a carb that is a natural part of plants that we eat but can’t digest, which means this material passes through your digestive system pretty much intact, and having no calorie value. There are two types – soluble and insoluble and both are equal in importance for your body. They help with overall health, your digestion as well as working to keep things like diabetes, obesity, heart disease diverticulitis and constipation at bay.
Experts tell us that women should take in about 25 grams of fiber daily, men about 38 grams. The average adult only eats 15 grams of fiber per day!
Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a sort of gel. This slows digestion and many types act as prebiotics that nourish the good bacteria in your digestive system. It also improves blood sugar control by slowing down the rate at which food moves from your stomach, avoiding the rise in blood sugar that often comes after meals. The delay in the emptying of the stomach may also be helpful in weight loss by keeping you feeling full and satisfied for longer.
Some sources of soluble fiber… oatmeal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, nuts, cucumbers, celery and carrots. There are many others.
Insoluble fiber won’t dissolve in water so adds bulk to the diet and helps prevent constipation. This type of fiber speeds the passage of food and waste through your digestive system. Insoluble fiber is found mainly in veggies and whole grains – wheat bran, seeds, barley, brown rice, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy greens, raisins and grapes. There are many other natural sources as well.
Solution for all: For the gluten sensitive/intolerant, you might consider quinoa, brown rice, oats or corn as gluten free grains that taste great too.
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Is Fiber Really That Good? Continued…
Since both soluble and insoluble fiber are important for keeping the body healthy, nature often puts the two types together in the same food. Some examples? Whole grains. Fruits. Vegetables. Beans. Nuts. Seeds. The natural fiber is always a good bet and comes with many other nutrients besides. You may have noticed products like cookies, drinks, sugared cereals and even ice cream with fiber added. Don’t be fooled, this is not the same as getting your fiber from natural sources.
Whole foods are always the choice for optimal health. Refined grains, highly processed foods and juices have been stripped of the natural fiber, as well as many other nutrients, and don’t offer the same benefit to the body.
If you have bowel problems or even high cholesterol numbers, it might be a good idea to talk to your health care provider about a fiber supplement. A registered dietician can also be helpful. If you do increase fiber intake, do it slowly so you don’t suffer gas or bloating and always drink plenty of water.
If you’re still not convinced that adding fiber to your diet is a smart move
- consider this. Research from 2013 found that those with the highest intakes of fiber have a far lower risk of dying of any cause. The study included nearly 400,000 subjects and saw that for every 10-gram increase in intake of fiber, risk of death went down 12% in men, 15% in women. Hard to argue with those numbers.
To your good health,