Dietary fiber is the portion of plant-based foods that our body can’t digest. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers are found in nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, oat bran, barley and some fruits and vegetables. They bind with liquids in your stomach to form a sort of gel that slows digestion and allows your body to better absorb valuable nutrients. Insoluble fibers are found in vegetables, wheat bran, and whole grains. They work to push waste quickly through your digestive system.
Although we are unable to absorb any nutrients from fiber itself, it has a wealth of health benefits including improving intestinal health, preventing heart disease and some cancers, reducing blood pressure, regulating blood sugar and it aids in weight control. Recent studies have shown that those that get enough fiber in their diets are likely to live a longer, healthier life.
Some ways in which fiber works to benefit us:
Helps you feel fuller faster and longer.
Foods high in insoluble fiber move quickly through your digestive track, which can help you to feel fuller faster. Soluble fibers stay in your stomach longer, keeping you feeling fuller longer. Generally, consuming a meal high in either type of fiber will keep you from overeating. For example, a single piece of whole grain bread can be more filling than 2 slices of white bread, despite them being roughly the same serving size.
Slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream.
When eating foods high in fiber, the rate at which sugar gets absorbed into the bloodstream slows down. This keeps your glucose levels from rising too fast and will keep you feeling fuller longer. This is particularly important for those who have or are susceptible to diabetes. Spikes in insulin not only alert your body to start storing fat, but also are also typically followed by a drop in insulin levels, leaving you feeling tired and hungry (again).
Cleans intestines and improves colon health.
Insoluble fiber improves your intestinal health by clearing out bacteria and other buildup on a regular basis. It works as sort of a scrubbing brush, keeping the walls of your intestines clean. Soluble fibers also work to improve your digestive track. They feed the good bacteria in your gut, reducing the risk of colon cancer and helping to support your immune system.
Aids in weight loss.
Studies have been done that link an increase in consumption of soluble fibers with a decrease in belly fat over time. It was found that for every 10 grams of soluble fiber eaten per day, belly fat was reduced by 3.7% over a five-year period. Insoluble fiber also helps to aid in weight loss as it helps to move fat through the body faster, leaving less of it to get absorbed as it is digested.
Promotes a healthy heart.
Soluble fibers have a direct impact on cholesterol levels. Research has shown that increasing soluble fiber intake 5-10 grams per day reduces LDL cholesterol by about 5%. Eating soluble fiber has also been associated with lower risk of heart disease. A study conducted by Harvard found that people who ate a diet high in fiber had a 40% lower risk of coronary artery disease than those who had a low fiber diet.
The average adult only gets about 15 grams of fiber a day. It is suggested that we consume 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories ingested. This averages out to about 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.
So what are some ways to incorporate more fiber into your diet?
– Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juices.
– Make vegetables your go to snack.
– Replace white rice, bread and pasta with brown rice and whole grain counterparts.
– Replace meat based meals with legumes two to three times per week.
While increasing fiber intake can be very beneficial to your overall health and help with weight loss goals, make sure to change your consumption habits slowly so your body has time to appropriately adjust. It is also important to drink lots of water throughout the day to help your body digest and process fiber.
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