Adapted from Dr. Mercola
Why Is Fiber So Important?
It is actually because your body can’t digest fiber that it plays such an important part in digestion. Soluble fiber, like that found in cucumbers, blueberries, beans, and nuts, dissolves into a gel-like texture, helping to slow down your digestion. This helps you to feel full longer and is one reason why fiber may help with weight control.
Insoluble fiber, found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, and carrots, does not dissolve at all and helps add bulk to your stool. This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination. Many whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, naturally contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.
9 Health Benefits of Fiber
- Blood sugar control: Soluble fiber may help to slow your body’s breakdown of carbohydrates and the absorption of sugar, helping with blood sugar control.
- Heart health: An inverse association has been found between fiber intake and heart attack, and research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease.
- Stroke: Researchers have found that for every seven-grams more fiber you consume on a daily basis, your stroke risk is decreased by 7 percent.
- Weight loss and management: Fiber supplements have been shown to enhance weight loss among obese people, likely because it increases feelings of fullness.
- Skin health: Fiber, particularly psyllium husk, may help move yeast and fungus out of your body, preventing them from being excreted through your skin where they could trigger acne or rashes.
- Diverticulitis: Dietary fiber (especially insoluble) may reduce your risk of diverticulitis – an inflammation of polyps in your intestine – by 40 percent.
- Hemorrhoids: A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of hemorrhoids.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Fiber may provide some relief from IBS.
- Gallstones and kidney stones: A high-fiber diet may reduce the risk of gallstones and kidney stones, likely because of its ability to help regulate blood sugar.
“…the current average fiber intake in the United States is about 13 grams a day for women and 17 for men. Increasing these amounts by seven grams a day would bring them close to the recommended levels of 21 to 25 grams for women and 30 to 38 for men. ‘Seven grams a day increase is an achievable goal…’ ‘You’re talking about… increasing vegetable and fruit by two portions a day.’”
If your diet could use more fiber, resist the urge to fortify it with whole grains. (And most certainly avoid fiber -fortified breakfast cereals!) Whole grains contain anti-nutrients that may damage your health. Instead, focus on eating more vegetables, nuts, and seeds. The following whole foods, for example, contain high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber.
|Chia seeds||Berries||Vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts|
|Root vegetables and tubers, including onions and sweet potatoes||Almonds||Psyllium seed husk, flax, and chia seeds, Inulin|
|Green beans||Cauliflower||Beans such as kidney beans and Chickpeas|
A simple “rule” to remember is simply to get most of your fiber in the form of vegetables, not grains. And not breakfast cereals!