15 Fiber Facts
Did you know that there is one crucially important nutrient that your body doesn’t even digest? That’s right. It’s fiber. Here are 15 facts about fiber.
- Fiber serves a mostly mechanical role in our bodies. It passes through largely unchanged, but it does so much good along the way.
- There are two types: soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fiber dissolves in water and takes a gel-like form.
- Soluble fiber helps lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. It could help prevent Type 2 diabetes, and its cholesterol-lowering power can help prevent heart disease.
- The best sources of soluble fiber are oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, and psyllium.
- Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk.
- Insoluble fiber may help prevent many health problems, including constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticular disease, where a part of your colon becomes infected and inflamed. It may also help prevent some cancers, including colon cancer.
- Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber.
- Insoluble fiber works best with plenty of water. The fiber actually absorbs water to provide some of the colon-cleaning and regularity benefits.
- Fiber supplements are available, and some processed foods are fortified with fiber, but it’s almost always better to get fiber from its natural sources, if you can.
- Check with your doctor before starting a supplement.
- When you eat high-fiber foods, you will likely eat less and stay satisfied for longer. They take longer to eat and are less energy dense. These qualities can help people maintain a healthy weight.
- Men need 30 – 38 grams per day, and women need 21 – 25 grams per day. Those 50 and older need fewer grams than younger people.
- Adding too much fiber too quickly can cause intestinal gas, abdominal bloating, and cramping. Increase fiber in your diet gradually over a few weeks. This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change.
- Fiber is often thought of as a “pre-biotic,” because it feeds the “probiotics” or friendly gut bacteria. These bacteria have the enzymes to partially digest the fiber. They go on to have an important role in weight and blood sugar control and both immune and brain function.
As a bonus, high-fiber foods can be wonderfully delicious. A wide variety of foods bursting with color, flavor, and crunch ensure endless combinations of healthy and satisfying meals.
Kristin Irace, RD, is a registered dietitian at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, VT.