We’ve all heard it – fiber is good for you, and you ought to integrate more of it in your diet. But what kind of foods contain which kinds of fiber? What should we focus on eating more and what are the actual benefits of increasing your fiber intake?
Fiber Sources and Daily Recommendations
First of all, let’s classify fiber – there’s soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber can and will dissolve in water, a process which will take place inside your digestive system, while the insoluble variant will not and will usually pass intact through your system. Each of these types of fiber has different health benefits we’ll explore now, but not before we look at some good sources for fiber.
This is where we come full circle in terms of dietary advice we keep on receiving: eat fruits and veggies. Particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, whole and often enough to make a difference – eating a single apple a week does not count. And that’s because most western world adults already have a serious fiber deficiency in their diet. While the effects of a lack of fiber in our diet may not be immediately noticeable, their contribution in long-term adverse health effects is pretty clear. Today, most Americans will consume about 15 grams of fiber daily, with 18 grams being the average in Europe. That’s literally half of the recommended 30 grams (1 ounce) we should eat daily on average. Bananas, apples, pears and citrus fruit, oats, barley and root veggies are all huge sources of fiber, both soluble and insoluble.
Benefits of Soluble and Insoluble Fiber
The main benefit of all kinds of fiber is that it fills you up for longer. Considering that our bodies are not adapted at digesting it easily, fiber will fill our gut and keep us from overeating. Upping your fiber intake is a great way to ensure that you can stay fit a lot easier and limit foods that can help you gain weight.
Speaking of your gut – there’s trillions of individual bacteria living there; we know them as ‘good bacteria’, as they’re responsible for breaking down what our bodies cannot and extracting or producing certain nutrients our bodies need. And the important thing to note here is that these bacteria rely solely on fiber to get nourishment; starve them out and you’re going to risk developing conditions like irritable bowel syndrome.
Cholesterol and blood sugar levels are also heavily influenced by a good fiber intake. Soluble fiber reduces cholesterol levels in your body, which is great news all around: for your circulatory system, to your cardiovascular one. Blood sugar levels are also prevented from spiking when enough fiber is added to a meal.
It’s pretty clear that fiber should play a more important role in our diet, and we should start moving towards that goal immediately. Be aware however that you should make small incremental changes when adding more fiber, as it can cause bloating and gas at first, until your body gets used to it. But it’s a temporarily small price to pay for the immense benefits that fiber can bring to your body.