Your Doctor and Grandmother agree, “You need more fiber in your diet.” Increased fiber intake is often recommended, but beyond grabbing a box of bran flakes, we rarely understand what fiber is or how to incorporate it into our diets.
Fiber is simply a type of carbohydrate from plants that cannot be digested by humans and is either soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Sources include oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and psyllium, often used as a fiber supplement.
Insoluble fiber helps the movement of food through your digestive system and increases stool “bulk” which is why fiber is beneficial in treating constipation or irregular stools. Sources of insoluble fiber include whole-wheat flours, wheat brans, nuts, beans, and vegetables. Green leafy vegetables like kale, along with cauliflower, and green beans are good sources of insoluble fiber.
Benefits of adding more fiber to your diet include:
- Softer Stools – Fiber absorbs water and forms softer stools that are easier to pass and is what your Grandmother is referring to when she says you need more “bulk” in your diet. If your stools are loose or watery, adding fiber may help your body’s digestive system as the fiber absorbs any excess fluid.
- Supports Colon Health – Adding fiber to eliminate constipation and straining will decrease your risk of hemorrhoids or diverticulitis. Early research suggests that a high-fiber diet may also reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
- Supports Digestive Health – Fiber is a “prebiotic” and helps to feed and support the many probiotic beneficial bacteria in your gut, your stomach, and intestines.
- Lowers Cholesterol – Soluble fiber lowers total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, the “bad,” cholesterol. A high-fiber diet may also reduce blood pressure and systemic inflammation.
- Lowers Blood Sugar – Fiber slows or blocks the absorption of sugar in the digestive process and may help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy high fiber diet that includes “bulk” may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Helps Weight Loss – Fiber is more filling, and you will feel fuller sooner and for a longer period when you include it in your diet. These same foods also contain fewer calories. Eating more fiber will fill you up and help you eat fewer calories overall.
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