So, what exactly is fiber and what are some good sources? How much should we consume? Are there any adverse side effects? What benefits can we anticipate? All you need to know is here. So lets start!
Dietary fiber, also called roughage, is part of the plant foods that are indigestible in our gastrointestinal track. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Many types of plant foods contain both. The differences between the two types of fiber are, simply put, soluble fibers dissolve in water, while insoluble fiber does not. I will go a little deeper and explain what the two types of fiber are capable of and how they can improve ones life.
Benefits of Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber binds to bile acids in the small intestines. This action makes these acids less likely to enter the body, which in turn lowers blood cholesterol. Another benefit of soluble fiber is that when consumed, it reduces the severity of the absorption of sugar, also reducing sugar response after eating. Soluble fiber can also normalize blood lipid levels.
Benefits of Insoluble Fiber
Insoluble fiber promotes movement of material through your digestive system. This increases stool bulk, which can be a long anticipated benefit to those suffering from constipation, or irregular bowel movements. The many good sources of insoluble fiber include: whole-wheat flour, nuts, many vegetables, and wheat bran.
The health benefits produced by insoluble fiber (relief of constipation and irregular bowel movements) mostly occur in the later part of the digestive system. These benefits include: improved health of the intestinal tract by increasing stool volume, and encouraging normal bowel movements. A direct benefit of normal bowel movements is less transit time through the colon, which can protect against complaints of irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, and constipation. Also, the accelerated rate of the food traveling through the digestive system can contribute to less salt being absorbed in the system, lowering the risk of blood pressure and other toxins.
To Sum It Up:
- Soluble and insoluble fiber can not be absorbed into our bodies.
- Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms gels. This gel passes through the digestive tract. As the gels travel down the digestive tract it can trap some fatty substances and prevent them from being absorbed into the blood stream.
- Insoluble fiber moves through the digestive tract, solid in form, and helps promote regularity. It also acts as a natural cleaner, picking up toxins along the way and removing them from our bodies.
So How Much Is Enough?
The institute of medicine, as well as the 2005 dietary guidelines for Americans, recommends 19-38 grams of dietary fiber daily. Another interesting suggestion comes from the American Heart Association. They recommend people consume about 25 grams of fiber a day, while a new dietary guideline recommends consuming 14 grams per 1,000 calories. This can be very confusing. Just to add a little more confusion, as of 2011 it has been reported that Americans are not meeting the recommended dietary reference intakes for fiber set by the national Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine. According to the, the dietary reference intakes for fiber increases with age. Children 1-3 years need 19 grams of fiber a day, increasing to 25 grams for ages 4-8. Women need up to 29 grams per day, and men 38 grams. All of this can be confusing, so what I have suggested is to aim for 25 grams a day, increasing to this amount slowly if you have been low on your fiber. As your body grows accustomed to the fiber, slowly add more, with a goal of 35 grams per day.
What Foods Are Loaded With Fiber?
Below, you will find a quick list of fiber rich foods. Of course this is not complete, but this should give you an idea and get you started on the right track.
|Almonds||sliced 1/4 cup||2.4|
|Artichokes||cooked 1 large||4.5|
|Avocado||1/2 avg size||2.8|
|Beans (Black)||cooked 1 cup||19.3|
|Beans (Kidney)||cooked 1 cup||19.3|
|Blackberries||raw, 1/2 cup||4.4|
|Chickpeas||canned 1/2 cup||6|
|Green Peas||1/2 cup||9.1|
|Lentils (Brown)||raw 1/3 cup||5.5|
|Lentils (Red)||raw 1/2 cup||6.4|
|Bran Muffin||1 whole||4.5|
|Peanut Butter||1 tbsp||1.1|
|Sweet Potato||1 sm||4|
Are There Any Adverse Side Effects?
Increasing or adding fiber rich foods to your diet should be done slowly. Taking too much fiber too soon can cause bloating, diarrhea, and cramps. Another, though uncommon, adverse side effect of increased amounts of dietary fiber can decrease absorption of key nutrients such as calcium, iron and zinc. However, the decrease of these key nutrients occur when taking fiber supplements. To avoid this issue, consume fiber rich foods, opposed to taking supplements. Foods such as whole grains, beans and nuts can hinder this decrease in these key nutrients.
Tips To Adding and Increasing Fiber To Your Diet:
- Start slowly. As your body grows accustomed to the increased amount, add a little more.
- Drink plenty of water. Stick with high fiber foods, opposed to taking supplements.
- Try new fiber rich foods, and recipes. Food should taste good, not just be good for us.
Another side note and important piece of information according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science, is that Americans should get at least an hour of daily physical activity along with increasing their daily fiber intake.
There are many reasons to add fiber to your diet. To conclude, here is a list of some of the ones I mentioned as well as other benefits that I did not touch on. Increased fiber intake has many benefits and I barely scratched the surface in this article. But I will leave you with some benefits I have discussed and some more for you to think about.
Fiber enhances bowel function, promotes bowel health, reduces cancer risk, normalizes blood sugar, improves cholesterol, aids in weight loss and supports the immune system. There are so many more but honestly with all of the information that has been thrown in your direction, I believe it’s enough to start on the path of adding and increasing your fiber intake. You will only benefit from it!