Dietary fiber is a good thing. In fact, it’s an excellent thing and something that most people don’t get enough of. The daily recommended amount of fiber is 20 to 30 grams. The best source of dietary fiber is vegetables, and sadly, most people aren’t consuming enough of this valuable food group.
Getting enough fiber offers a wide range of health benefits, including:
- Better cardiovascular health
- Weight management
- Blood sugar control
- Better skin
- Decreased risk of stroke
- Regular bowel movements
- Lowered risk of hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, gallstones, and kidney stones
I eat muffins and cereal, does that work?
Eating whole wheat bran muffins and cereal is actually not a great way to get dietary fiber. It actually raises your insulin levels and promotes leptin resistance, which causes all sorts of other health issues on top of weight gain. Sorry to all those cereal and muffin eaters out there!
The critical importance of both types of fiber
Did you know that there are two types of fiber? Soluble fiber is found in foods like nuts, berries, and cucumbers. Insoluble is found in dark green leafy vegetables, celery, and carrots, and helps bulk up stools, and allows food to move quickly through the digestive tract for healthy elimination. There are some foods like fruits and vegetables that contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Insoluble fiber provides bulk to the intestines and balances the pH levels in the intestines. This type of fiber promotes regular bowel movement while preventing and relieving constipation. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water – hence its name. It also doesn’t ferment with the bacteria in the colon. It is thought that insoluble fiber helps to prevent diverticulosis and hemorrhoids and ushers out toxins from the body.
Soluble fiber is similar to insoluble, although it makes a gel and binds with fatty acids. This slows the emptying of the stomach and allows for nutrients to be readily absorbed. Soluble fiber can lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels, making it a good choice for those with pre-diabetes and diabetes.
Grain and anti-nutrients
Unfortunately, getting your fiber from grains can harm your health, as the high-fiber bran portion of the grain (which is what makes it a whole grain) actually contains anti-nutrients.
Gliadin and lectins, which are substances found in grain, can increase leaky gut syndrome and contribute to all types of digestive problems such as gas, bloating, and abdominal cramps. It can also result in other symptoms like allergies, fatigue, joint pain, skin rashes, mental disturbances, and much more.
On the other hand, a diet that includes plenty of high-fiber fruit, nuts, seeds, and veggies like berries, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, and sweet potatoes almonds, flax, and chia seeds, will help improve gut health. Plus, it will keep your appetite under control and may even help people with heart disease live longer.
One study found that those who ate the most fiber had a 25 percent decreased risk of dying from any cause than those who didn’t get enough fiber. After suffering a myocardial infarction, people who increased fiber consumption were also able to reduce their risk of dying from any cause, including other heart-related events.
The bottom line is, you’ll reap a wide range of benefits from consuming dietary fiber, as long as it’s coming from organic vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds rather than processed grains, which promote chronic disease and do nothing for your health.
It’s just one more reason to give up those “junk” foods and add more veggies to your diet. If you have an aversion to vegetables, adding them to a smoothie can help make it easier to feed your body what it needs.
Delicious high fiber foods
Here is a list of 21 delicious high-fiber snacks that will keep you full and healthy.
- Chia seeds
- Swiss chard
- Green Peppers
What about supplements?
Although it is easy to find a fiber supplement, even the best supplements on the market only provide a small amount of the fiber we need daily, and the sources of this fiber are not always the best. If you must take a supplement, never take one that contains methylcellulose (fake cellulose), calcium polycarbophil, or wheat dextrin. These ingredients have no nutritional value at all.
As you plan your meals, keep in mind the importance of plenty of fiber of both kinds. Your body will thank you, and you will be more regular than you have ever been!!
-Susan Patterson, CBHC and Master Gardener