Worldwide scientific and medical communities agree that a diet rich in fiber has many health benefits. In fact, fiber can help:
I've found that a lot of people struggle to know how important fiber is for you and how much you need in a meal.
So, let me explain what fiber is, why it’s important, and how much is enough. Knowing these facts will benefit you. Acting on these facts to eat more fiber will strengthen your overall health.
What is Fiber?
You see it on the backs of your food packages, but what is fiber really? Is it good for you?
To put it simply, fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate. Yep, that's right - a carb. Don't stress though, this is a good carbohydrate - a really good one at that.
Fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves and thickens when it becomes hydrated and is known for its cholesterol-lowering properties.
Soluble fiber is made up of sticky substances like gums and pectin, which form a gel-like substance in the presence of fluid. Cholesterol that is stored in the blood is used to produce bile acids; and therefore, as the gel binds the cholesterol and bile acids in the small intestine, it is eliminated from our body with regular bowel movements. It's this action of gelling and binding that's also responsible for soluble fiber’s ability to promote a feeling of fullness.
On the other hand, insoluble fiber is the 'roughage' in our diet that helps promote a regular and healthy digestive system.
Foods like oatmeal and other grains generally contain both, while many fruits contain only soluble fiber (this is why prunes do what they do).
Why is Fiber Important?
It is important not only because it keeps you regular, but also because it helps to lower inflammation. This is the most important reason that you may want to consider adding more fiber to your diet.
Many of our chronic diseases are the result of inflammation, and if fiber can help to limit this inflammation, you have a secret cure for staying healthy.
This is why many doctors recommend eating oats and fruit in the morning. It's superb for reducing inflammation and supporting good general health.
How Much Fiber Do You Need?
Fiber intake is important, and recent research shows more and more how crucial it is for us.
In trying to figure out how much you need, an important aspect to consider is that since fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate, each gram you ingest lowers your net carb count by an equal gram.
That means if you eat a slice of bread that has 10 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber, you are really only ingesting 7 grams of total carbs. For this reason, many people consider a high-fiber diet to be essential for health and general weight maintenance.
For most people, the dietary guideline for fiber is about 35-40 grams/day (which very few people hit). This is about the equivalent of eating 10 apples. Of course, no one is going to eat that many apples, but having a balanced diet with plenty of dense grains, fruit, and vegetables will help you to hit a healthy daily intake of fiber.
These foods are all healthy sources fiber:
As you can see, adding more fiber rich foods to your daily diet is easy to achieve.
Now, I've just scratched the surface on the benefits of fiber. But I recommend that you eat smart and opt for a high-fiber rich diet - it’s great for your overall health!