- Normalizes bowel movements - Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it
- Helps maintain bowel health
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Helps control blood sugar levels
- Aids in achieving a healthy weight
While we are continually told that we need to eat fiber rich foods, many of us are not completely aware of what the real health benefits of foods that contain fiber are. It would also be fair to say that many people do not know that there are two types of fiber and what the differences are.
One reason for this is that most of the nutritional food labels we see on food products do not indicate which type of if fiber it contains.
You need to become your own nutrition expert and know which foods will give you the best source of these food fibers and why you need to include them in your diet.
Importance Of Fiber
Fiber is almost similar to sugars and starches due to its carbohydrate makeup. However, the type of carbohydrates that fiber contains, the human body cannot digest, while carbohydrates found in starches and sugars can be digested.
While your digestive system cannot digest the carbohydrates found in fiber, it helps our system digest other foods and keeps our entire digestive system functioning at its best.
So now you are asking, what are these two types of fiber I should be aware of?
The Two Fiber Types
Keeping in mind that these two fibers act differently in your body, both are essential to your bodies digestive health.
These fibers include soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water and insoluble fiber, as the name implies, cannot be dissolved in water.
Insoluble fiber can be obtained from oat bran, barley, coconuts, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables.
This type of fiber helps with the formation of the waste mass that passes through the bowels and helps prevent the occurrence of constipation and diarrhea. Additionally, it helps to keep your stool solid and compact. This enables the stool to move easily through your digestive tract.
Insoluble fiber also works like a scrub brush that scrapes the walls of the digestive tract as it passes through. As the insoluble fiber scrapes, it will accumulate waste particles so these can be moved out of the body.
Soluble fiber can be obtained from fruits, vegetables (specially peas and green beans) legumes, and flax seeds. Soluble fiber functions differently from insoluble fiber. It becomes gel-like and thickens the contents of digested food as it is incorporated with the liquids in the body.
Soluble fiber is helpful in hydrating the stool, allowing it to move smoothly through the intestines. It also helps prevent any digestive problems as it makes the digestive contents into a watery, slurry mixture. This mixture slows down its absorption into the small intestines.
Eating foods containing soluble fiber helps to make you feel fuller for a longer period of time. This is also why a diet rich in soluble fiber is considered to be an important part in losing and maintaining a healthy weight.
What The Studies Reveal About Fiber
Studies show that those who eat more soluble fiber will be able to reduce their food intake by as much as 11%. An increased soluble fiber intake has the added benefits of balancing the levels of blood glucose and lowering levels of cholesterol.
Studies have also shown that prebiotics (carbohydrate compounds), primarily oligosaccharides (insoluble fiber), are able to resist digestion in the human small intestine and reach the colon where they are fermented by the gut microflora.
Inulin, oligofructose (OF), prebiotin, lactulose, and resistant starch (RS) meet all aspects of the definition, including the stimulation of Bifidobacterium, a beneficial gut bacteria.
How Much Fiber Do You Need
Now that you understand the health benefits of a fiber-rich diet and how they work, we suggest that you resist the urge to suddenly increase your fiber intake.
Make sure to increase your fiber intake in a slow and steady manner.
Why? Your body needs time to adjust to any increase in the amount of non-digestible material from the fiber-rich foods you will be increasing in your diet.
Doing so will avoid any digestive discomfort that could happen from the increase in your fiber in take.
Now the question is how much fiber do I need on a daily basis?
The Institute of Medicine, which provides science-based advice on matters of medicine and health, gives the following daily fiber recommendations for adults:
- Men 38 grams
- Women 25 grams
- Men 30 grams
- Women 21 grams