Fiber, often referred to as dietary fiber, is a plant-based carbohydrate that is unable to be broken down into glucose molecules. Animal sources do not contain fiber, because carbohydrates are not found in meat-based sources. Fiber is only available to us through plant-based sources such as grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes.
Fiber plays an important role in your gastrointestinal tract, because it is unable to be broken down, it attaches to bacterial and food contents of the intestines and gently sweeps our digestive tract to help promote bulk and regularity of bowel movements.
Fiber benefits our bodies through digestive and cardiovascular health. Fibers role in digestive health is to slow the rate of digestion, which in turn slows the rate of glucose absorption in the bloodstream, ultimately keeping blood sugar levels stable. Consuming fiber-rich foods, like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains will provide prolonged satiety, maintain regular bowel movements, prevent constipation and aid in weight management.
Insoluble fiber is the type of fiber that acts as nature’s broom, gently sweeping your intestines and colon of any bacteria or food contents in order to promote regular bowel movements which plays an important role in colorectal health.
In addition to these digestive benefits, fiber plays a pivotal role in immune function- being that the majority of our immune system resides within our gastrointestinal tract. Thus making it important to make gut health a priority by consuming enough pre and probiotic food sources which will promote beneficial bacteria, stabilize blood glucose levels, promote bowel regularity and increase absorption of nutrients.
Prebiotic: Fiber sources
Probiotics: Live microorganisms that live in the gut and provide heath benefits to our bodies.
Without getting too far into probiotic talk the main takeaway is that when choosing an appropriate probiotic for your health you should work with a professional and keep in mind a probiotic is only deemed a probiotic if it has the required number of bacterial strains that impose a proven health benefit on the host. A reputable source for searching for a probiotic that is right for you is USProbioticGuide.com. It’s also important to mention that the efficacy and benefits of probiotics are still being researched and that’s why it’s important to work with a professional to assess need and dosage before purchasing. Also be wary of marketing tactics that state they contain probiotics!
The cardiovascular benefits include fiber’s role in binding with cholesterol in the bloodstream with the help of bile acids. When you are digesting foods your body requires bile acids which are primarily comprised of cholesterol. In this mechanism, the cholesterol is being pulled from the bloodstream to create these bile acids, which then reduce the amount of LDL cholesterol circulating in your body. LDL is closely linked with increased risk of cardiovascular disease so this an important area for fibers job! Remember HDL is beneficial and protective for heart health and the number we want to see sky high. Fiber is also involved in cancer prevention or reducing risk for specific types of cancer.
Soluble fiber is fiber that easily attracts and dissolves in water turning it into a gel. Think of how chia seeds attract water and gel up. Soluble fiber is helpful in lowering cholesterol, stabilizing blood glucose levels, and providing support for immune and gut health. Some sources for soluble fiber are vegetables, oats, banana, avocado, sweet potato, chia and flax seeds, flesh of pears and many beans.
Insoluble fiber hold onto water but will not dissolve and continues through the gut intact. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool which will accelerate fecal transit through the colon. Examples of insoluble fiber are whole grains, buckwheat, beans, legumes, vegetables such as corn and carrots, fruits with skin like berries, apple and pears and bran cereals.
While Fiber supplements may seem appealing it’s important to remember that fiber should be incorporated through food sources in your diet to help create a healthy relationship with food and encourage creative cooking at home!
Notoriously, American diet patterns are low in fiber so when increasing fiber in the diet it’s more likely that individuals are just getting closer to or meeting the actual recommendation. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Adequate Intake (AI) goal is 25g/d for females and 38g/d for males.
· Start slowly by adding fiber-rich food sources into a few of your meals
· Be sure to drink enough fluids when increasing fiber to prevent bloating, constipation and cramping
· When choosing cereals, bread or grain products look for “High Fiber” meaning that it contains 20% or higher (an excellent source) of the daily value of fiber needs based on a 2,000kcal diet for a healthy adult. Products claiming “a good source of fiber” will contain 10% of the daily value of fiber.
· Don’t peel those skins off your apples and potatoes! Produce skin should be washed thoroughly under running water and enjoyed as a whole fruit or vegetable.
· Experiment with alternative sources of grains such as quinoa, whole buckwheat, whole wheat grains, hemp seeds, lentils, and vegetable-based pastas.
Lastly have fun with it! Create meals that are bright in color and full of whole grains to include fiber-rich sources in your diet.
Stay well and stay regular,