You likely already know that adding fiber to your diet is a great way to improve your regularity or to treat constipation.
However, the fact is that dietary fiber - ideally from plants and nuts - has many other important health benefits, including -
- Blood sugar control - because it is not broken down by the body, fiber in an apple or a slice of whole grain bread has no effect on blood glucose levels. Of course, most foods that contain fiber - such as fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, cereals and pastas - also contain other types of non-fiber carbohydrates such as sugar and starch that do raise blood sugar levels. According to a recent study, people with diabetes who ate 50 grams of fiber daily - especially soluble fiber - were able to control their blood sugar much better than those who ate far less. The average person needs to consume between 20-35 grams of fiber every day.
- Better heart health - fiber-rich foods are clearly associated with lower risk of heart disease. Research shows that people who regularly consume a high-fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease. A high-fiber diet also lowers levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and reduces blood pressure (BP).
- Stroke protection - getting more fiber can reduce risk of stroke. Researchers found that each seven-gram increase in total daily fiber intake was associated with a 7 percent decrease in first-time stroke risk. One serving of whole wheat pasta plus two servings of fruits or vegetables provides about 7 grams of fiber.
- Effective weight loss management - a high-fiber diet tends to be low in calories and takes longer to eat. It makes you feel full sooner and for longer. Also, if you're eating more fiber, you're eating less of other foods that cause weight gain - which is also beneficial for heart health.
- Radiant skin health - fiber helps to make your skin appear radiant and healthy. Along with water, fiber cleanses the body of fats and toxins. For example, adding psyllium husk to your diet helps to remove harmful yeast and fungus out of your body, instead of being excreted through your skin where they could trigger acne or rashes.
What are the best sources of fiber?
Vegetables are a major dietary source including artichokes, cooked green peas and broccoli. Fruits high in fiber include raspberries and pears, eaten with the skin. Legumes - including split peas, black beans and lentils - are also an excellent source of dietary fiber.
Another way to get adequate fiber in your diet is to take a daily serving of a psyllium supplement. One serving with 8 ounces of water will provide you with about 20% of your daily fiber needs.
Psyllium seed husks are hygroscopic, which means they expand and become mucilaginous on contact with water. Being indigestible, they are a source of soluble dietary fiber and are typically used to relieve constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea. They are also used as a dietary supplement to improve and maintain regularity.
Recent research has shown that psyllium seed husks may also be effective in lowering cholesterol and controlling certain types of diabetes. Other uses include gluten-free baking, where ground psyllium seed husks are used to bind moisture and make breads less crumbly.