At this point, there’s enough science out there to strongly suggest something you’ve likely heard before: Eating a robust variety of minimally processed fruits and veggies along with other plant-based foods is a great way to stay healthy and control your weight — and the fiber in these foods is likely a central reason why they’re so great for our bodies.
So go forth and repopulate more varieties of bacteria in your gut!
Fiber is usually found in whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes, which you won’t find in fast food menus and most prepackaged foods.
But you can improve your health and your diet by knowing how fiber benefits your body, how much you need to eat, and how you can get more into your daily meals and snacks.
Fiber is found in plant foods. In most plants, there’s some part of the plant your body can’t digest or absorb. This is called dietary fiber. Because fiber isn’t digested by your body, it passes through your digestive system and out your body relatively “whole.”
The fibres consist of non-starch polysaccharides such as:
Types of Fiber
Fibres can be classified as water-soluble and insoluble. Most fibre-containing foods include varying proportions of both soluble and insoluble fiber. However, fruits and vegetables contain the most soluble fibres, and cereals contain the insoluble ones.
Most plant foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel, acting like a sponge in binding cholesterol-rich bile acids, which are then eliminated as waste. It’s a cholesterol-lowering and glucose level lowering type of fiber.
Good sources of water-soluble fiber are:
• Oats, rye, wheat bran
• Lentils, beans, peas
• Nuts, flax seeds
• Apples, oranges, pears, strawberries
• Cucumbers, celery, carrots
• Psyllium husk
On the other hand, insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. Because insoluble fiber is bulky, it helps move your food through your digestive tract. Which helps with constipation or irregular stools. Insoluble fiber aids in digestion by acting like a broom and cleaning out our intestinal tract.
Good sources of water-insoluble fiber are:
• Whole grains and wholegrain products (100% rye bread, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta)
• Brown rice
• Fruit and vegetable peels
For the greatest health benefits, you should aim to eat a variety of high-fibre foods that include both soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber also provides these other stellar health benefits.
Natural Sources of Fiber
Here are a few foods that are naturally high in fiber:
• 1 large pear with skin (7 grams)
• 1 cup fresh raspberries (8 grams)
• ½ medium avocado (5 grams)
• 1-ounce almonds (3.5 grams)
• ½ cup cooked black beans (7.5 grams)
• 3 cups air-popped popcorn (3.6 grams)
• 1 cup cooked pearled barley (6 grams)
Benefits of eating more fiber
1.Keep your digestive tract healthy
If you’ve experienced problems with constipation or irregular (watery) stools, adding more fiber to your diet can help bulk up your stool. Whether your stools are coming out too easily, or not at all, fiber can help. Staying regular is key to digestive health and the best way to ensure regularity is to eat more fiber. Fiber helps food move through the digestive tract. It increases stool bulk and helps prevent constipation and irregularity. Watch out for these easy constipation natural remedies.
According to 2017 research published in the journal Nutrients, a high-fiber diet can also help prevent diverticulitis. The painful condition occurs when pouches form in the walls of the colon and become inflamed. The longer the waste sits in the intestinal track, the longer the body is exposed to toxins. And that increases the risk of disease. Waste sitting in our gut can promote bad bacteria to develop, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems.
2.Boost your energy levels
Fiber may not provide calories (aka energy). But it can help give you a lift by improving your digestion and by slowing down the release of glucose into our bloodstream. Fiber slows the sugar dump into the bloodstream, so you won’t have a crazy energy spike after eating. And you won’t bottom out once the carbs are processed. “Refined sugars give you the spike and then you crash.”
3.Lose weight and maintain a healthy weight
While losing weight and maintaining a weight loss is not easy, adding fiber to your daily diet can help. Fibre is linked to having a lower body weight because whole grains are usually lower in calories than high-fat foods. Fiber calories from high quality, high-fiber foods are also more satiating. They add bulk and slow the digestion process, which makes it more likely for us to lose weight over time.
4.Lower your cholesterol and risk for cardiovascular disease
When you eat whole foods that contain good amounts of fiber, you’ll feel satisfied for longer. Which means you’ll eat less in the long run and still feel full. Plus, calorie for calorie, you’ll be eating less when you fill up on whole foods like fresh produce or whole grains than if you fill up on other foods. This means to improve your blood cholesterol levels, mainly your “bad” cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and obesity.
5.Drop your risk for type 2 diabetes
Fiber helps to control your blood sugar levels. This is good news if you’re a diabetic.
Soluble fiber slows the absorption of sugar. When we add fiber to our diet, our bodies break down carbs more slowly, and this allows our blood sugar levels to rise more gradually. Eating adequate amounts of fiber can also help you reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Check out these guilt-free diabetic-friendly snacks.
How much fiber do you need?
You’re committed to eating more fiber. But how much do you need?
The American Diabetic Association recommends
• 25 grams for women, or 21 grams if over 50 years old
• 38 grams for men, or 30 grams if over 50
Remember: All things in moderation
Excessive diets high in fiber will cause an uncomfortable feeling of fullness and gas. Therefore, it is necessary for you to maintain a healthy and balanced consumption of fibres.
Increase your fiber intake gradually.
If you take too much, too quickly, you will go from constipation to diarrhoea.
Too much fiber can cause different types of gastrointestinal distress from gas and bloat to constipation to cramping and diarrhea. If you eat one serving of fruit or vegetable daily, increase it to two, then introduce whole grains. Check with your medical professional before you increase your fiber intake. You may want to check out these top alkaline foods .
By Priyanshi Bhatnagar