The Low Down on Fiber
What is fiber?
Fiber is the group of nondigestible carbohydrates that are found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Our bodies do not breakdown or extract any nutrients from fiber, instead it passes relatively intact through the body. Fiber is associated with many health benefits that reach far beyond the digestive system including a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke as well as reduced weight and risk for type 2 diabetes.
Right now, 95% of Americans are not reaching their recommended intake due to the consumption of a Standard American Diet or restrictive diets that eliminate high fiber grains and legumes like paleo. Females require a minimum of 25 g per day while men should consume 38 g. A balanced diet of nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables make this number very achievable!
Types of Fiber
Fiber is categorized into two types, solubleand insoluble. Soluble fiber turns to a gel when it comes in contact with water while insoluble remains the same. Soluble fiber is the reason why oats can help to lower cholesterol because it binds to excess LDL and helps to remove it from the body. Soluble fibers are also responsiblefor blood sugar control. Whereas insoluble fibers are known best for controlling appetiteand preventing constipation.
Benefits of Fiber
In addition to lowering risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and high cholesterol, fiber is incredibly powerful for our microbiome. We each contain a seven-pound community of bacteria and yeast in our gut. This group is responsible for producing neurotransmitters, immune cells, anti-inflammatory compounds, and can even influence our genes. Just like us, these bacteria need food to survive and they love fiber. Fiber may not be used by our cells, but they keep our microbiome alive and thriving!
How to Incorporate More
1. Log it- In my experience, the easiest way to keep track of fiber intake is to use a food tracking app like My Fitness Pal or Cronometer. These apps make it easy to log food consumed and see grams of fiber immediately. Additionally, you will benefit from seeing other information like sugar, protein, and omega 3 intake.
2. Add veggies– Make sure each meal contains at least 2 cups of vegetables. Sometimes I will simply put my meal on top of a bed of greens to ensure I reached the quota.
3. Supplement– Fiber supplements are all over the market, so it is important to be informed. Functional fiber, which is normally used as an additive, is an isolated version of dietary fiber that is naturally found in fruits and vegetables. My philosophy is that nature got it right the first time and prefer to consume fiber from its whole food source.