What is Fiber?
Fiber is part of plant-based foods that our body cannot breakdown or process. It literally passes through our body mostly untouched. This is a GOOD thing!
Fiber is found in all plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and grains.
There are 2 types of fiber. Soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and becomes a gel like substance. Soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol and reduce our blood sugar levels.
Insoluble fiber retains it’s shape in our bodies. Insoluble fiber attracts water into our intestines to help with the passage of food through our bowels and reduce constipation. It increases fecal bulk and helps make trips to the bathroom more regular and not painful. Be forewarned, we will be discussing poop in this blog. 😉
Most plants-based foods contain both and we need both in our bodies.
Don’t get too hung up on the types. ALL fiber is good, no matter which kind.
Now that we’ve answered what is fiber, let’s learn the benefits of fiber.
Benefits of Fiber
Fiber is not only great for our intestines, but studies show a diet rich in fiber reduces our risks of several chronic diseases.
FUN FACT: We have more bacteria cells in our body than human cells. It’s estimated that the ratio is 1.3 bacteria cells to 1 human cell.
Bacteria lives on our skin, mouth, nose but the majority live in our gut.
This is called our gut flora. We WANT the good bacteria in our gut. Human cells can’t feed on fiber so it reaches our intestines mostly untouched but gut bacteria can and do feed on fiber. This helps promote the growth of good bacteria in our guts which leads to a variety of health benefits. You can read about the health benefits of good gut health here.
Trying to lose weight? When we consume more fiber, we feel fuller longer and usually eat fewer calories overall. This is very beneficial if you are trying to shed a few pounds. Studies show that eating more fiber not only leads to more weight lost but also improves the feelings of satiety, (feeling full), less feelings of deprivation and people are able to continue on their weight loss journey longer.
Suffer from constipation? Fiber adds bulk to our stools and absorbs water which leads to more regular bowel movements and easier to pass stools. (I warned ya we’d be talking about poop! 😉) Eating more fiber can reduce issues like hemorrhoids and even diverticulosis.
Do you have high cholesterol? Ever wonder how eating more oatmeal reduces cholesterol? Fiber binds with cholesterol in our intestines and therefore our bodies can’t absorb the cholesterol. The cholesterol then passes in our stools along with the fiber. That’s how eating more fiber rich foods like oatmeal lowers cholesterol.
Recent studies are showing that eating more fiber lowers your risk of colorectal cancer by as much as 20%. Colorectal cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in the US. Not only can eating more fiber reduce your chances but it may help colon cancer survivors live longer! Important to note: The fiber increase in this study was only about 5 grams or the amount in 1 bowl of oatmeal each day.
Are you at risk for diabetes? Fiber slows the absorption of carbohydrates in our bodies and therefore helps improve our blood sugar levels. It is estimated that for every 10 grams of fiber you intake per day, you can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 25%!
Those are some pretty AMAZING benefits of fiber! And I only highlighted a few of the top ones.
How much Fiber do I need a day?
It is recommended that women consume 25 grams or more of fiber and men should consume 38 grams.
Sadly, the average American only consumes 15 grams per day.
It is recommended you eat fiber rich foods vs just taking a supplement to get the most benefits of fiber.
Worth mentioning, when your intestines feed off fiber, it does produce gas. When you first begin to eat more fiber, you may notice feelings of bloating and more gas. This will subside within just a couple of days. Hang in there, it’s worth eating more fiber!
Foods with Fiber.
Foods with soluble fiber include oats, oat bran, barley, rice bran, apples, strawberries, blueberries, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, barley, citrus fruits, lentils, black beans, lima beans, Brussels sprouts, avocados, sweet potatoes, broccoli, turnips, pears, kidney beans, figs, nectarines, apricots, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, hazel nuts, cucumbers, celery and psyllium. (a common fiber supplement.
Supplement if you must but way more health benefits are gained by eating nutrient dense foods, rich in fiber.
Foods with Insoluble Fiber.
Foods with Insoluble Fiber include whole wheat flour, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, quinoa, amaranth, couscous, wheat bran, wheat germ, oat bran, beans, lentils and legumes of all kinds, carrots, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, celery, cucumbers, zucchini, cauliflower, potatoes, dark leafy greens, green peas, okra, spinach, radishes, coconut, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, apples with skin, pears with skin, flaxseed, avocado, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, 100% whole grain pasta, breads, and popcorn.
You likely see some foods on both lists. Many plant-based foods have both types of fiber.
By eating a more plant-based diet (with or without meat) you can easily get the recommended amounts and reap the benefits of fiber!
Simply aim to eat 1-2 servings of fruits or vegetables at every meal.
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Hey there my friend! My name is Jodie Crandall and I’m a veggie loving certified health and nutrition coach on a journey to spread the word about how amazing veggies are for our health! I am a self-proclaimed “plant-based meat eater” who has recently lost almost 50 pounds by eating more veggies!