Fiber is one of most overlooked parts of the diet, and it’s importance is monumental!
What does fiber do:
Fiber’s main purpose is that it aids in digestion. It can also help prevent certain illnesses: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, diverticulitis, and constipation. Without fiber, certain food items, especially animal proteins, cannot easily pass through the digestive system. If they don’t pass through the digestive tract, they cannot be broken down and absorbed correctly, and then they also will not be expelled correctly. If these foods aren’t expelled, that means they’re basically sitting in the gut, rotting. This is no good.
Soluble versus Insoluble Fiber:
Both are equally important.
Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water. It also helps delay the emptying of your stomach. So foods that are rich in fiber, help you feel full longer, which in turn helps control your weight. This slower emptying can to beneficial to your blood sugar levels (insulin), which can prevent diabetes. It also helps lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), as it interferes with its absorption. That’s why when people have high cholesterol, doctors tell them to eat foods like oatmeal and Cheerios.
Insoluble fiber is considered “gut healthy” – it has a laxative effect, and adds “bulk” to the diet, preventing constipation. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water, so it passes through the digestive tract intact, speeding up the passage of food and waste.
Sources of fiber:
PLANTS! YES PLANTS!
Soluble: oatmeal, oat cereals, lentils, apples, oranges, oat bran, nuts, flax seeds, beans, cucumbers
Insoluble: whole grains: wheat bran (we don’t recommend this because of gluten), brown rice, barley, couscous; plants: zucchini, cucumbers, dark leafy veggies, fruits, root veggie skins (this does not mean we recommend eating loaded potato skins!)
How much fiber do I need:
Answer: more than you think! A typical American diet only includes around 15g of fiber a day. According to the 2005 FDA Dietary Guidelines, a teenage girl up to a woman of 50 years of age needs 25g of fiber daily. A teenage boy through a man of 50 years of age needs 30-38g per day. However, after some further research, the USDA recommends 14-16g of fiber PER 1000 calories eaten a day to receive the maximum health benefit. On a typical day, I eat around 1900 calories and consume 30-34g of fiber.
What kind of fiber is better:
It doesn’t matter which kind you get, unless you are going for a certain health goal. If you need to lower your cholesterol, you’re going to consumer more soluble fiber. It is best to focus on eating a diet rich in both types. One issue with fiber is, the more you eat, the gassier you will become! If this is a concern of your’s, add fiber slowly to reduce this “risk”, as your body will then adapt to the gradual increase in fiber. More fiber = more water, as the soluble fiber will absorb it, so you need to up your water consumption.
Do I need a supplement:
As with any diet, it is always best to get fiber straight from the source. However, if you physically cannot consume a large volume of food, then a fiber supplement may be necessary only if you’re not getting enough. Check your diet on myfitnesspal.com, and check each food you’re putting in for it’s fiber content to see how much you’re getting. Some fiber supplements are gluten free, but check the label to make sure. Benefiber, for instance, contains less than 20ppm (parts per million), and can still be labeled as gluten free according to the FDA and Codex Alimentarius Commission’s definitions. If you’re concerned about this and a gluten and wheat sensitivity, check with your doctor.
So that’s fiber in an nutshell! Happy eating and digestive health to everyone!