Health professionals encourage people to eat 30 to 35 grams of fiber each day, but some people don't know exactly what fiber is. This might explain why the average American consumes just 15 grams of daily fiber. Knowing the ins and outs of fiber can help people make more informed choices when it comes to nutritious eating and good health. It can even help people stop overeating, control food cravings, and more.
What is Fiber?
Fiber is the material within plant foods that the body cannot easily digest, such as the fiber in fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. The two types of fiber include soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, while insoluble fiber does not. When it comes to health benefits, these differences are important.
Best Sources of Fiber
The two types of fiber affect the body in different ways. A good mix of soluble and insoluble fiber helps ensure optimal health.
Good sources of soluble fiber include:
Oatmeal or oat bran
Peas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, and navy beans
Apricots, grapefruit, mangoes, and oranges
Asparagus and Brussels sprouts
Good sources of insoluble fiber include:
- Whole grains like wheat, brown rice, and barley
Almonds, walnuts, and filberts
In addition to providing the body with a number of important phytochemicals and antioxidants, fiber offers an abundance of other health benefits.
Related: The Guide to Natural Weight Loss
Lowers LDL (Bad) Cholesterol
Soluble fiber binds to cholesterol and bile acids, moving both through the body for excretion. To make more bile acids, the liver needs more cholesterol, which it pulls from LDL molecules in the bloodstream, thereby lowering LDL cholesterol levels. In layman’s terms, eating fiber can help to lower cholesterol.
Type 2 Diabetes
Research from Harvard University on male and female health professionals linked diets high in cereal fiber to a lower risk for type 2 diabetes. Additional studies like the Black Women's Health Study have come to similar conclusions.
Insoluble fiber draws water to the intestine, which adds bulk to waste products and helps move them through the body. Both types of fiber soften stools, making them easier to pass.
According to research, boosting the consumption of soluble fiber is likely to reduce risks for the development of heart disease by lowering triglycerides in the blood. What's more, soluble fiber can slow the progression of heart disease once it is diagnosed.
According to the author of "Fat Flush for Life," certain types of fiber bind with yeast, fungus, and other toxins, moving them through the digestive system to be excreted with waste products. Without the help of fiber, toxins and impurities can be excreted through perspiration, causing skin rashes and breakouts.
Insoluble fiber adds bulk to foods. Because bulky foods require more time for chewing and enhance a sense of fullness, they can help people stop overeating and control food cravings. A 12-year study from Harvard Medical School found that women who increased consumption of high-fiber or whole-grain foods were 50 percent less likely to become obese as compared to women who lowered consumption of these foods.
Adding foods to the diet that are high in soluble and insoluble fiber result in many health benefits. Eating more whole grains, nuts, legumes, and plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables helps maintain a healthy body weight and lowers risks for some types of disease. In order to avoid uncomfortable symptoms like gas and bloating, people not accustomed to eating fiber-rich foods should start gradually.