Fiber isn’t the most exciting topic. In fact, it’s probably one the last things you want to think about during your busy days. But getting enough fiber is crucial for your overall health.
Dietary fiber — which is found mainly in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains is best known for its ability to help prevent or relieve occasional constipation. As your mom probably said when you were growing up, fiber helps to “keep you regular.”
Fiber does this and so much more. Not only does it help with normal bowel movements, it also provides other health benefits, such as helping with heart health and assisting with weight management.
We’ll dig into what fiber is below.
What is Fiber?
Dietary fiber, also known as roughage, is made up of the parts of plant foods your body can’t digest or assimilate. Unlike other macronutrients, such as proteins, fats, and carbohydrates — which your body is able to break down and absorb — fiber isn’t digested by your body. Instead, it passes relatively intact through your body until it’s eliminated.
The role fiber plays is that as it passes through your body it soaks up other particles and ‘pushes’ them through your system. This includes helping your body eliminate things like cholesterol and other food particles.
As you can imagine, getting this helpful ‘push’ is very important for the proper functioning of your body. Getting enough fiber helps to keep things moving in your system.
Benefits of Fiber
We already mentioned a few of the benefits of fiber above, but in this section we’ll go more in-depth on the topic.
Normalizes Bowel Movements
The main benefit of fiber is its ability to keep your digestive system moving. It helps to push things through and maintain normal bowel function. This helps to prevent occasional constipation and other problems.
Benefits Heart Health
Fiber is also good for heart health. New research shows that fiber may help to normalize cholesterol levels by binding with cholesterol particles in your digestive system and moving them out of the body before they’re absorbed.
Support Healthy Weight Management
Adding more fiber to your diet can help with weight management. This is due to the fact that fiber rich foods tend to have more of a satiating effect. When your hunger feels satisfied more quickly, you will eat less. So make sure to get more fruits and veggies in your diet!
Helps Maintain Bowel Health
Fiber helps to keep things moving through your digestive system. This helps to benefit your overall bowel health since it doesn’t give food the chance to sit in your colon where it can grow bacteria and cause issues. Plentiful amounts of fiber will keep things moving smoothly.
Types of Fiber
There are two main types of fiber, soluble and insoluble fiber. Both are needed by the body and serve different functions. Your recommended daily fiber intake is between 25 and 30 grams per day.
This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like liquid. It moves through your system and soaks up other particles until it is eliminated. Soluble fiber is found in foods such as oats, beans, apples, carrots, barley, and psyllium.
This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your system and increases stool bulk. This is the type of fiber that is needed by those who struggle with irregular bowel movements. Foods rich in insoluble fiber include wheat bran, nuts, seeds, and beans. Many vegetables are rich in insoluble fiber, including veggies such as cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes.
You’ll want to consume a combination of both soluble and insoluble fiber. The best soluble fiber to insoluble fiber ratio is 1:3. So, for instance, you’d want to get 7 grams of soluble fiber and 21 grams of insoluble fiber.
How to Get More Fiber in Your Diet
The best way to get more fiber in your diet is quite simply to eat more fruits and vegetables. Plant foods are rich in fiber, both soluble and insoluble. It is best to eat raw fruits and veggies as they contain more fiber, cooking them can break down the fiber content.
While eating more fruits and vegetables is a good rule of thumb, if you are looking for more in-depth information, below is a list of ideal fiber-rich foods.
- Black Beans
- Flax Seeds
- Nuts (walnuts, almonds, etc…)
- Most kinds of fruits or vegetables (kale, avocados, pears, berries, etc…)
While getting enough fiber through plant foods is ideal, sometimes it is tough to get enough fiber, especially if you travel on a regular basis. During those times, taking a fiber supplement is a great idea.
If you have a hard time processing gluten, make sure to look for a gluten-free fiber supplement. Many supplement brands are contaminated with gluten, so make sure to look for certified gluten-free fiber products! Check out this helpful article to help you learn how to tell if you’re taking a gluten free fiber supplement. This is important because many fiber supplements are not gluten-free!
In closing, fiber is important. Getting enough fiber is crucial for your overall health and wellness. Make sure to prioritize fiber and your body will thank you!
Daniel Powers is a health and fitness enthusiast with a background in the supplement industry. He has a degree in business and has allowed his passion for entrepreneurship flow into researching health topics. Outside of work, Daniel enjoys Crossfit, reading large books, and drinking coffee.