By: Rick Bellanti – Oct. 2018
Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet, and a diet high in fiber may help reduce the risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Fiber is very important to digestion, it is a plant-based nutrient that is also a type of carbohydrate but, unlike other carbohydrates, it cannot be broken down into digestible sugar. It helps with regularity, weight management, blood sugar regulation, cholesterol maintenance and more.
Dietary fiber is something that our bodies need for a healthy digestive system. However, it is never actually digested or absorbed by our bodies. Most Americans do not consume enough fiber in their daily diet, and it is recommended that men should aim for 30 to 38 grams of fiber a day, while women should try to eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber daily. Reading those product nutrition labels, I spoke about last month is very important.
When you have insufficient amounts of fiber in your diet, you may feel tired or discomfort such as constipation, bloating and cramping. On the other hand, too much fiber in the diet can cause food to pass too quickly through the intestines resulting in lesser nutrient absorption and loose stools.
There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber turns gel-like in the stomach and slows down your digestion. This action helps lower and regulate cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber is known to help decrease blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. It also helps lower blood cholesterol. The second kind, or insoluble fiber remains unchanged, keeping its shape in the digestive tract until eliminated through the body. This type of fiber makes stools easier to pass and assists in making waste softer, yet heavier so it can move along the intestines easily without causing digestive discomfort.
Most plant-based foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, but the amounts of each vary in different foods. The best food sources of soluble fiber include beans, lentils, oatmeal, peas, citrus fruits, blueberries, apples and barley. While good sources of insoluble fiber include foods with whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, brown rice, cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers. Some foods, like nuts and carrots, are good sources of both types of fiber.
Fiber is great for Heart-Health. It helps lower cholesterol, because as your digestion improves, the liver pulls cholesterol from the blood to create more bile acid, thereby reducing the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
Fiber supplements are not as good as the fiber found in foods, but people struggling to get enough fiber in their diets, from food alone, will often turn to store bought fiber supplements. They may have the same cholesterol-lowering and blood sugar stabilization effects (if you can get enough of them), but a supplement alone does not have as much fiber as a fiber-rich food. In order to get all the benefits of fiber, many people may opt for a high-fiber diet. Remember, when incorporating more fiber into your diet, start slowly, adding as little as 5 grams a day for a few weeks and gradually increasing it to where you are comfortable. If you start too much fiber too fast or in excess, fiber can cause bloating, cramps and even diarrhea. Let your body get used to having more fiber.
Rick Bellanti is a wellness columnist and is on a journey himself to lose 240lbs, and has lost 160lbs since the start of 2015. You can find Rick on Facebook at: Getting Healthy with Rick Bellanti ◊