“Eat More Fiber”
We’ve all heard it before
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but do you really know what it is, how our bodies use it, and how it supports our health?
Where does fiber come from?
Most of us get fiber from two sources. Dietary fiber is found naturally in the fruits, veggies, nuts, and grains we eat. As the plants are maturing, this type of fiber is what gives them their shape and structure (much like our muscles and bones do for us).
Functional fiber – An ever-growing trend in the food industry, is a fiber that’s added to our food. Where does it come from? It’s been isolated and extracted from plants or animal sources, although it can also be synthetically manufactured. (For a fiber to be called functional, it does have to demonstrate beneficial effects)
Therefore, when you’re standing in the middle of the grocery reading labels, the term total fiber will mean the combination of dietary fiber that came naturally, as well as the functional fiber that was added during manufacturing.
Soluble vs. Insoluble
Our bodies don’t digest fiber in the same way they do other nutrients. Instead, fiber passes through our digestive systems largely intact until it reaches the large intestine. This is where it’s broken down, not by enzymes and digestive fluids, but rather by some of the trillions of bacteria that happen to live there.
When talking about fiber the words soluble (dissolves or swells in water) or insoluble (it doesn’t), are often part of the conversation. Naturally, these differences will affect how each functions in the body and benefits our overall health.
Soluble fibers attract water and form a gel, which in turn slows digestion, helping us feel fuller longer. There are other benefits, as well. The longer it takes for the stomach to empty, the greater the effect on blood sugar levels, which may help control diabetes. These soluble fibers can also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by binding with dietary fat and cholesterol in the digestive tract, making if far less likely to be absorbed.
Soluble fiber is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables.
Insoluble fibers – On the other hand, speed up the passage of food and waste through the digestive tract, add bulk to the stool, and help with regular bowel activity. These types of fibers are found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains.
What are some of the other ways fiber supports our health?
Helps Maintain a Happy Colon
Fiber acts directly as a fuel for growing our “friendly” bacteria. There’s a very intimate and mutually supportive relationship between fiber in our diet and populations of bacteria in our large intestine.
Eating a high fiber diet will help with regularity, which in turn will decrease the chance of hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, and perhaps colon cancer
Bacteria and Colon Function
The colon is home to a huge number of micro-organisms, mostly bacteria. These bacteria play a huge role in keeping the colon wall healthy, and also produce a strong immune system for our bodies. They significantly increase calcium absorption and bone density.
How much fiber should you be getting?
Men (< 50 years old): 38 grams (> 51 years old): 30 grams
Women (<50 years old): 25 grams (> 51 years old): 21 grams
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Wishing you happy Wednesday!