All About Fiber: Benefits, Sources, Supplements
Fiber is the most unappreciated dietary hero. We’ve all heard the advice: ‘Eat more fiber’. It has benefits which extend beyond helping you with clearing your bowels. In this article we’ll be all about fiber: benefits, sources and supplements.
What is Fiber?
Technically fiber is a carbohydrate found naturally in plant based foods. Its not digestible by human beings. However, as it moves down the digestive tract, it can do some great things that will positively impact your health. There are two types of fiber:
These fibers absorb water during digestion. It slows the digestion process which may be beneficial for weight loss. Foods rich is soluble fiber are vegetables, legumes (such as dry beans, lentils etc.), fruits such as (apples, grapefruits, oranges), oats, nuts.
These fibers remain unchanged during digestion. It provides bulk to stool and aids movement through the dietary tract. Foods rich in insoluble fiber are edible seeds or peels, vegetable, whole grain products, rolled oats, brown rice.
Why Should You Eat Fiber? Possible Health Benefits Of Fiber
Fiber has numerous benefits. Studies suggest that those with a higher intake of fiber tend to have lower rates of hearth disease, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, hypertension and digestive diseases. For a healthy lifestyle you must ensure getting a variety of fiber from whole fruits, vegetables and grains. Lets look at some of the benefits:
1. Weight Loss
Research suggests that eating certain kinds of fiber aids in weight loss. Fiber soaks up water and adds bulk to food in the tract which slows down the process of digestion. This increases satisfaction of food and helps you feel fuller with lesser calories. This concept is the core of including a high fiber diet to fight obesity. However, it is important to understand that only soluble fiber aids in the process of weight loss.
Pro Tip: Here’s a list of food that’s high in soluble fiber: Black Beans, Lima Beans, Brussels Sprouts, Avocado, Sweet Potato, Broccoli, Turnip, Kidney Beans, Figs, Nectarines, Apricots, Carrots, Apples, Pear, Flax Seeds, Sunflower Seeds to name a few.
2. Digestive Disorder
We are all aware that bacteria live in the human body including the intestine. These gut bacteria are known as the gut flora. Before you get scared, this isn’t a bad thing. They are crucial for various aspects of human health such as weight control, blood sugar, immune function.
When it comes to fiber, enzymes produced in human body are unable to digest it. Thus it reaches the large intestine relatively unchanged for the gut flora. This works as probiotic for the ‘good’ bacteria which has many positive effects on human health. It leads to reduction in gut inflammation and improvements in digestive disorders like irritable bowl syndrome, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Pro Tip: Here’s a list of best food for gut health: Yogurt, Kombucha, Sauerkraut, Kefir, Sprouted Grains, Garlic, Miso, Kimchi, Salmon, Bone Broth to name a few.
One of the most common known benefit of fiber is to fight constipation. Fiber is claimed to absorbs the water and adds bulk to the stool to speed up the movement of the stool through your intestine. However, choosing the right kind of fiber is essential to help with constipation. Otherwise, it might do worse. Soluble fiber that forms a gel in the digestive tract which are not fermented by the gut bacteria is often effective.
Pro Tip: Foods such as Prunes, Wheat Bran, Broccoli, Apple, Pear, Kiwi, Blackberry, Olive, Flax Seed help relieve constipation.
4. Reducing Glycemic Index
High Fiber foods are known to have low Glycemic Index in comparison to refined foods. If you are known to have blood sugar issues, reduce the intake of refined foods such as White flour and Sugar. Also, if you’re following a high carb diet, including foods rich in fiber will reduce the likelihood of spiking blood sugar levels.
Pro Tip: Foods with low Glycemic Index are: Beans and Legumes, Flex Seeds, Asparagus, Brussel Sprouts, Oats etc. Including these in your diet will reduce the likelihood of high blood sugar levels.
5. Possible Reduction in Cholesterol
Fibrous foods are known to reduce cholesterol. Bile salts are secreted by the gallbladder to break the fat content in the food. These bile salts are made of cholesterol. When the fiber enters the digestive track, it binds to bile salts. More the fiber intake, more bile salts are produced by taking cholesterol from the liver. Thus, reducing blood cholesterol.
Pro Tip: Mayo Clinic suggests to consume these fibrous foods to possibly reduce cholesterol: Oatmeal, Oat Bran, Fish, Omega-3 Fatty Acid, Almond, Avocado, Whey Protein etc.
How much Fiber should be consumed?
By now you must be convinced with the benefits of increasing fiber intake. It is extremely vital in the overall functioning of the body. It is recommended that an adult must consumer 25-28g fiber per day. However, adults in United States consumer only about 15 grams a day. This is half the recommended amount.
You may wonder the possible side effects of fiber. The fermentation of fiber by the bacteria produces gas. This may cause stomach discomfort in some people. However, these side effects usually go away with time.
Its best to get the nutrition and fiber from food. However, if your fiber intake is low, you can consider take a supplement. Always consult your doctor before taking the medication.
- Guar fiber: It improves fullness and lowers overall calorie intake. It’s also used in processed foods to improve texture (7Trusted Source).
- Psyllium: This supplement is used to fight constipation. Research also indicates that it reduces hunger between meals (8).
- Glucomannan: This fiber is added to some low-fat dairy products to improve texture. As a supplement, it increases fullness and reduces appetite (9Trusted Source).
- β-glucans: This type of fiber is found in oats and barley. It is fermented in the gut and acts as a prebiotic to support the healthy microorganisms that live there (10).
However, supplements have a drawback. Some of them may cause stomach discomfort and bloating. Thus, to reduce this, you must drink plenty of water.