Well, it is very likely that you are apart of the Columbia Institute of Human Nutrition’s report that estimated 90% of Americans are not getting enough fiber in their daily diet. Dietary fiber is a part of plant foods that your body can not digest properly. I bet right now you are scratching you head and asking yourself “why should I be concerned about eating something that my body can not even digest?” In fact, it is the inability to digest fiber that is most helpful to our bodies.
Types of fiber
Fiber is classified into two major sub categories: soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is found in foods like beans, fruits, legumes, and oats. Soluble fiber is coined as food for the good bacteria, or flora, in the colon. Studies show that soluble fiber can help lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels when combined with a low cholesterol and low fat diet. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, is not dissolved in water and is considered to be more beneficial to our body. Insoluble fiber helps our bodies’ bowel movements be more regular, adding bulk and making them softer. Insoluble fiber generally can be found in whole grain products and vegetables.
Why are we so deficient in fiber?
In one simple statement our grains are refined and fiber and bran are removed from the grain. Food made from rice, oats, corn, and wheat, such as bread, oatmeal, pasta, and grits, are all grain products. There are two sub categories of grain products: whole grain and refined grains. We have talked about the need to eat whole grain, if you choose to consume grains, in the past and here is why. Whole grains contain the entire grain made up of bran, germ, and endosperm. Refined grains are milled, or ground, into flour or meal and have had the bran and germ removed. This refining process also removes most of the B-vitamins and iron as well as the fiber and other nutrients. This is why manufactures enrich the flower, after the refining process, by adding B-vitamins and iron back, but not fiber.
There are multiple health benefits from fiber, here is a shot list of them:
Weight Management– Fiber can help curb hunger by making you chew more, and adding bulk to your stomach and digestive tract without adding a lot of calories that are absorbed, leaving you feeling satisfied
Constipation– Fiber absorbs large amounts of water in the bowels, making stools softer and easier to pass
Hemorrhoids – Fiber makes stools softer and easier to pass, allowing you to have less strain during bowel movements
Heart Disease – Research on fiber is showing a positive influence on cholesterol when regularly eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol
Diabetes – Fiber in your diet can help regulate blood sugar levels by slowing your absorption of sugars, which has the potential to promote healthy blood glucose levels
Digestive Health – Fiber feeds the good bacteria, and helps nourish the cells that make up the colon
How much fiber should you eat?
The National Academy of Science, American Heart Association, and the American Dietetic Association, all recommend that people get at least 25-35 grams of fiber per day, with some people needing even more. According to the Annals of Internal Medicine, people on low carbohydrate diets typically get only seven to eight grams of fiber daily. It is much easier than you may think to increase your daily fiber intake. Most of the things you already eat can be purchased in a less processed, whole food, high fiber alternative; such as cereals, cereal bars, breads, tortillas, etc. You should always consult with your healthcare provider to see if a high fiber plan is right for you. Here is a list of good sources of fiber:
Bran has the highest fiber content – about 25% to 45%.
Nuts and seeds
Legumes (such as dried peas, beans, lentils)
Fruits (not juices) and vegetables that are high in fiber include:
Fiber is partially broken down in your colon by your body’s flora, or good bacteria, by a process called fermentation. The process yields some organic acids, that help nourish the cells that make up the colon walls, and gas. The gases produced are passed as flatus and can give a bloated or cramp like feeling to some people; especially for those with SIBO, SIFO, gut dysbiosis, and other lower gastrointestinal issues. For this reason dietitians recommend drinking lots of water and increasing your fiber intake gradually.
In summary, for those who wish to consume grains, look for whole grain foods instead of enriched white flour. Fiber is a very important substance to our body which allows our body to feel and function its best. Adding fibber to your diet is as easy as increasing nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, and switching to whole grain.