Fiber: All you need to know
Diets rich in fiber are associated with good heart health, metabolic health, and gut health. Fiber feeds your gut microbiome — the trillions of microorganisms that live in your gut. Boosting your gut bacteria with fiber helps explain some of the health benefits of a fiber-rich diet.
What is fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that your body can’t digest. So, instead of being broken down into sugar like other carbohydrates, it passes through your body.
Experts recommend that adult women consume about 25 grams of fiber per day, and adult men should aim for about 38 grams per day.
There are two main categories of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both are important to include in your diet.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water, turning into a gel-like substance in your gut. This helps slow digestion, which can help you feel fuller for longer and reduces the risk of spikes in blood sugar.
This type of fiber may also help control the amount of “bad” cholesterol in your blood. Soluble fiber is present in oats, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, and some fruits and vegetables.
Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water.
This fiber helps food move through your body and can prevent constipation. Insoluble fiber is present in whole grains — such as brown rice, wheat bran, and quinoa — leafy greens, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and skin-on fruits.
Experts also categorise fiber as fermentable or nonfermentable. Fermentable fiber includes those that feed the bacteria in your gut. Conversely, nonfermentable fiber passes through your intestines and can help promote regular bowel movements.
The health benefits of fiber:
Eating enough fiber is an essential part of any healthy diet. For instance, one study involving over 4,600 participants found that a diet rich in fiber was associated with up to 31% lower risk of developing many chronic diseases.
Regular bowel movements
Both soluble and insoluble fiber can help promote regular bowel movements and protect against constipation.
As soluble fiber dissolves in water, it produces a gel-like substance, which helps bulk up and soften stool, making it easier to pass. In addition, insoluble fiber interacts with the lining of your intestine, causing water and mucus to enter the colon and promote movement.
Fiber can also help keep you regular by feeding your gut bacteria. As the bacteria in your gut eat and ferment the fiber, water is drawn into your intestines, making your stool softer and easier to pass.
Cholesterol is vital for many bodily functions, but too much cholesterol in the blood increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and heart attack.
A fiber-rich diet lowers cholesterol in a few different ways. For instance, soluble fiber traps cholesterol in the gut. This prevents it from being absorbed back into the blood. Instead, it leaves your body in poop.
Also, fiber feeds the “good” bugs in your gut. As the bacteria break down fiber, they produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These fatty acids reduce cholesterol production in the liver, lowering blood cholesterol levels.
When SCFAs enter the blood, they also help regulate your metabolism.
Possibly Weight Loss
Research suggests nutrients like fiber can play a major role in body weight. Dietary fiber intake, independently of macronutrient and calorie intake, promotes weight loss and dietary adherence in adults with overweight or obesity consuming a calorie-restricted diet, according to a study in The Journal of Nutrition.
Fiber expands and bulks food in your gastrointestinal tract, slowing digestion. This can increase satisfaction of your food and helps stabilise blood sugar levels. Foods high in fiber also tend to be lower in energy density, meaning they’ll help you feel fuller without consuming excessive calories. This concept is at the core of why a higher fiber diet is associated with a lower rate of obesity.
A healthy gut
certain types of fiber act as food for the trillions of microorganisms living in your gut, collectively called your gut microbiome.
A healthy, diverse gut microbiome can affect many aspects of your health, including the health of your immune system and your metabolic health. It may also protect against other conditions, such as arthritis and eczema.
Among other factors, how much fiber you eat affects the health of your gut microbiome. For example, in an animal study in the journal Nature, scientists reported that when mice ate a low-fiber diet for 4 weeks, they experienced a 60% decrease in microbe diversity.
A 2-week clinical trial with human participants showed that switching to a high-fiber diet significantly increased the participants’ good bacteria.
Support Healthy Skin
You might not immediately think of healthy skin when considering your fiber intake. Sometimes, yeast and fungus can cause outbreaks when excreted through the skin.
A high fiber diet helps to flush the toxins out the body more efficiently which can improve the appearance of the skin and leave it looking healthy. By giving your body the opportunity to flush out toxins effectively, other parts of your health should benefit.
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. However, a wealth of evidence suggests that eating a fiber-rich diet is associated with a lowered risk of heart disease and death.
In addition to lowering cholesterol levels, a high-fiber diet is associated with reducing other risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and obesity.
What foods are high in fiber?
Vegetables, skin-on fruit, whole grains, beans, seeds, and nuts are generally good sources of fiber. To help build a diverse, healthy gut microbiome, eat a range of different fibers from various sources. If you’re looking to add more fiber to your diet, consider adding foods such as:
lentils: 15.6 g od fiber per cup
Black beans: 14 g fiber per cup
pinto beans: 15 g of fiber per cup
baked beans: 14 g of fiber per cup
lima beans: 13 g of fiber per cup
Edamame pasta: 11 g fiber per 50 g
Chia seeds: 10 g fiber per ounce
bran cereal: 10 g of fiber per half cup
avocado: 10 g fiber per cup
green peas: 9 g fiber per cup
raspberries: 8 g of fiber per cup
whole-wheat pasta: 6 g of fiber per cup
dried prunes: 6 g of fiber per 10 prunes
Whole-wheat spaghetti: 6.3 g fiber per cup
artichoke: 6 g of fiber per one medium artichoke
baked potato with skin: 5 g of fiber per medium potato
canned pumpkin: 5 g of fiber per half cup
broccoli: 5 g fiber per cup
kiwi: 5 g of fiber per cup
brown rice: 4 g of fiber per cup
peas: 4 g of fiber per half cup
Apple, with skin: 4.5 g fiber per medium apple
Apple, with skin: 4.5 g fiber per medium apple
pears: 4 g of fiber per 1 medium pear
blueberries: 4 g of fiber per cup
Popcorn: 4 g fiber per 3 cups
Chickpeas: 4 g fiber per cup
sweetcorn: 3.5 g fiber per cup
Strawberries: 3 g fiber per cup
Rye crackers: 3 g fiber per two slices
Carrots: 3 g fiber per cup
Tips for a high-fiber diet
If you want to add more fiber to your diet, here are some tips to get you started.
Start small with plenty of water. Adding too much fiber too quickly or without enough water can lead to uncomfortable side effects like cramping, excessive gas, or constipation.
Be active. Movement is important when you increase your fiber intake, to avoid constipation.
Eat the skin. Most of the fiber in fruits and vegetables is present in the skin. Eat potatoes, apples, and pears, for example, with the skin on. Just make sure to rinse them first.
Switch to whole grains. Whole grains have far more fiber than their refined-grain counterparts. Whole grain pasta, breads, oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains are widely available in most grocery stores.
Try plant-based proteins. Beans, lentils, split peas, and other plant protein sources are typically high in fiber and can be added to or take the place of meat. For example, try swapping half of your ground meat with black beans next taco night.
Add fruits and vegetables. An easy way to boost the fiber in your favorite dishes is to add fruits or vegetables. For example, toss spinach into chicken noodle soup. Add berries and oats to your morning yogurt. The possibilities are endless.
Enjoy nuts and seeds. You can sprinkle these on salads and soups, and include them in smoothies.
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