I know we talk about fiber a lot, but our need for fiber will never go away… But what is it really, and what does it do for us?
By definition, fiber is the indigestible part of fruits, seeds, vegetables, whole grains and other edible plants. And here are four basic benefits of eating enough fiber:
- Reduces Inflammation: A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical a Nutrition found that c-reactive protein (CRP) – a marker of inflammation and a predictor of future heart disease and diabetes – was inversely related to dietary fiber. As fiber consumption goes up, harmful inflammation goes down.
- Promotes a Healthy Weight: Not only does soluble fiber prevent the absorption of fat, but it also helps you to feel full longer. Less hunger means fewer calories… and therefore fewer pounds. Researchers have calculated that if Americans doubled their fiber intake, they could cut 100 calories from their diet a day – which equates to 10 pounds of yearly weight gain!
- Improves Gastrointestinal Health: Soluble fiber is the favorite “food” of the healthy bacteria that live in your digestive tract. And a healthy tummy is a happy tummy! Soluble fiber can help improve digestion, enhance nutrient absorption and provide significant relief of IBS symptoms.
- Improves Blood Sugar Balance: Soluble fiber traps carbohydrates, slowing their digestion and absorption and aiding in blood sugar balance. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that a high-sugar, low-fiber diet more than doubles women’s risk of Type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes.
Let’s talk about the healthy weight benefit. How do fiber and fiber-rich foods control hunger and increase the feeling of fullness? Well, this happens partly because fiber-rich foods take up a large volume in the stomach, and partly because they promote and prolong CCK (cholecystokinin) to make you feel full longer–appetite is reduced directly by the bulk of the fiber and indirectly through the delayed emptying of the stomach and the release of brain and gastrointestinal-tract hormones which signal satiety. Pretty cool, isn’t it? Also, fiber is a natural way to reduce the body’s absorption of fat and sugar, as it slows down the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar, allowing glucose to be burned more efficiently instead of being stored quickly as fat. The higher the fiber content of a single food or a meal in total, the harder and longer the body has to work to digest it, which is a weight loss advantage in three ways: (1) the body burns more calories just digesting your food, (2) you stay full longer, and (3) your appetite is reduced because as the absorption slows down, so does the rate at which the blood sugar rises and falls.
So fiber helps you lose weight and/or maintain your ideal weight, but there is so many more benefits of fiber! It also helps you maintain healthy cholesterol levels, reduce the risk of heart attack and developing diabetes, promotes bowel regularity and fecal energy excretion: calories are removed with the bowel movement (fiber flush effect) and improves immunity.
How much fiber should you eat? You know it! Shoot for 35 g daily! So eat those fresh vegetables and yummy fruits and beans and grains!