When most people think of fiber they think of something that helps them go to the restroom. I once asked someone, “Do you get a lot of fiber in your diet?” and she replied, “Oh no, I don’t have issues going to the bathroom”. And it’s true, most people think this way. Lets put that assumption to rest. Fiber is for everyone, regular and irregular alike. We should all get adequate fiber in our diet for many reasons.
This week, I want to share with you the benefits of incorporating fiber in your diet daily.
First, lets cover the two main categories of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Simply put, soluble fiber is the fiber that absorbs water and insoluble fiber is the fiber that does not absorb water.
Insoluble fiber is the fiber that primarily helps us avoid constipation. Because insoluble fiber does not absorb water, it passes through us quickly and helps transport our food and waste more quickly through our gut.
In addition to helping keep us stay regular, insoluble fiber:
- May prevent diverticular disease
- May delay glucose absorption
- May increase the feeling of fullness (satiety)
- Lowers cholesterol
- May protect against colon cancer
Because soluble fiber absorbs water it stays in our system longer. It causes delayed gastric emptying – which means that fiber and food stay in our stomach longer. This is a plus, because it helps us stay full longer! This type of fiber is also responsible for keeping us regular.
In addition, soluble fiber:
- Decreases total blood cholesterol
- Guards against diabetes
- May help manage irritable bowel syndrome
- May protect against colon cancer and gallstones
The primary benefits of making fiber a regular part of our diet:
- Regular bowel movements.
- Making us feel fuller and stay full longer (weight maintenance/loss).
- Helping us prevent chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
The daily recommendation for fiber intake is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.
Here is a simple and straight-forward list of high-fiber foods I have put together for you:
In general, insoluble fiber can be found in the skins of fruits and vegetables and the bran of whole grains. Soluble fiber is often high in vegetables, oat products, legumes and fruits.
Here is a more detailed list the smarty pants at Harvard put together.
Two important things to make note of:
1. When increasing the fiber in your diet, start slow. Adding too much fiber too fast can have unpleasant consequences.
2. Choose naturally-occuring fiber over the artificial fibers found in products such as Fiber One. Natural is always best.
Escott-Stump S, Mahan L. Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy. 12th ed. St. Louis, Missouri: Saunders Elsevier; 2008.