What is fiber and why is it so important? It is surprising that not many people truly understand the importance of fiber in the diet. In fact, Americans consume only an average of 15g of fiber a day, well below the recommended intake of around 25g/day for women and 28g/day for men. What are some food sources of fiber and why is fiber so important? Read on to find out.
According to the Institute of Medicine Panel on the Definition of Dietary Fiber, “dietary fiber consists of nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants. Functional fiber consists of isolated, nondigestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects in humans. Total fiber is the sum of dietary and functional fiber.” Basically, fiber is all of the parts of plants that our body’s enzymes are incapable of breaking down. However, this physiological fact is why it is so beneficial.
First let’s name some valuable sources of fiber. The best, most valuable sources of fiber are found in fruits and vegetables, primarily because their toll on your glycemic load, or the total effect of glucose intake on your blood sugar levels, is relatively low. Great sources of fiber are raw broccoli, cauliflower, corn, lettuce, kale, green beans, legumes and all types of beans, squash, apples, oranges, prunes, raspberries and the like. Whole grains are also good sources of fiber, eaten in moderation, with consideration to each grains’ glycemic load. To find out the glycemic load of a certain food look here:
Here is a top ten list of why adding fiber to your diet is a win-win situation:
1. Fiber makes you full. Fiber, specifically gel forming fibers such as chia seeds, form gels during digestion and contribute to a feeling of satiety and fullness. The fibers need to be gel forming. Wheat bran doesn’t do it as well. Large doses are required for the satiety effect. Other sources of satiety-inducing fibers are apples, corn bran, and barley.
2. Fiber can delay the absorption of certain nutrients in the small intestine. The binding effects of fiber and delayed nutrient absorption have shown to have a positive effect on glucose tolerance, meaning your blood sugar does not go through the valleys and peaks it normally does without fiber intake, thus lowering the incidence of pre-diabetes and diabetes.
3. Fiber lowers serum cholesterol. Fiber delays gastric emptying, interferes with digestive enzymes, and also interferes with actual cholesterol formation, all thus lowering your serum cholesterol way better than any pharmaceutical can.
4. Fiber gets rid of toxins. The binding effect of fiber essentially wraps up little packages of toxins and harmful substances found in our foods and sends them out to be eliminated in your feces. Eliminated products can be bile acids, diacylglycerols, long-chain fatty acids and ammonia.
5. Fiber may lower the incidences of colon cancers. Because fiber quashes out of control cell division i.e. cancer, fiber lowers the risk of carcinogens attacking vulnerable dividing cells by stopping their proliferation.
6. Fiber lowers constipation. Need I say more?
7. Fiber lowers blood pressure. Because fiber improves serum lipid levels and reduce inflammation, fiber has been shown to lower blood pressure.
8. Fiber reduces the incidences of Type 2 diabetes. Diets that provide 30 to 50g of fiber per day have been shown to lower serum glucose levels and thus lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
9. Fiber is an effective obesity prevention tool. Diets higher in fiber have shown to reduce the mean waist circumference of dieters than those who consume less fiber. Fiber is great for your belt buckle.
10. Fiber lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. Because of the combined effects of lowered blood pressure, lower serum cholesterol levels, and reduced inflammation, their is evidence that fiber also lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
I could go on and on about fiber, but I won’t. I think there is enough here to compel you to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. Don’t be a part of the American low fiber intake statistics. Increase your intake of fiber and you will be lighter, healthier and happier. Cheers to fiber!
STIPANUK, M., & CAUDILL, M. (2006). Biological, physiological, and molecular aspects of human nutrition. (3RD ed., pp. 194-203). ST. LOUIS: ELSEVIER.