We hear a lot about the health benefits of protein, greens, vitamins, and omega-3s. But what about fiber? Often forgotten, fiber plays a critical role in maintaining proper digestion, a healthy weight, and more.
Let’s take a closer look at the many ways this essential nutrient can help you be your best self!
What Is Fiber?
Dietary fiber includes the parts of edible plants your body can’t digest or absorb. Unlike other food components like fats, protein, or carbs (which your body breaks down and uses), fiber isn’t digested by your body. Instead, it passes pretty much intact through your stomach, small intestine, and colon before being shuttled out of your body.
Fiber is mostly found in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. There are two types of fiber, insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and adds bulk to the stool, preventing constipation. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, absorbs water, forming a gel-like substance in the digestive system.
Why We Need Fiber
It’s hard to believe that something that our bodies can’t even digest can be so good for us! Here are some of the most common benefits associated with a high-fiber diet.
Normalizes bowel movements. Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool. It also softens it. This makes the stool easier to pass and decreases your risk of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may help to solidify it because it absorbs water and adds bulk.
Helps maintain bowel health. A high-fiber diet may help lower your odds of developing hemorrhoids and small abnormalities inside your colon. Studies have also shown that a high fiber diet can help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.1
Lowers cholesterol levels. The soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed, and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels.
Helps control blood sugar levels. In people with diabetes, fiber—and especially soluble fiber—can slow the absorption of dietary sugar and help improve blood glucose levels. A healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.2
Assists in weight management. High-fiber foods tend to be more filling than low-fiber foods. This helps you feel full longer and discourages overeating.
Cleanses the colon. Fiber acts like a scrub brush to cleanses your colon. This scrub-brush effect helps clean out harmful bacteria and other buildup in your intestines and reduces your risk of certain colon diseases.3
How to Get More Fiber
The American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of fiber-rich foods. Total dietary fiber intake should be 25 to 30 grams per day from food.
Here are some tips to add fiber to your diet:
- Eat a high-fiber cereal for breakfast
- Add veggies, dried beans, and peas to soups and stews
- Add nuts and seeds to yogurt
- Make a veggie chili filled with different types of beans
- Try snacking on veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, or carrots, and serve with a healthy dip like hummus
If you find it hard to meet the recommended daily intake, consider adding a high-quality fiber supplement to your routine. You can also try a prebiotic supplement. Prebiotics are a specialized type of plant fiber that acts as food for the good bacteria in your gut. One effective type of prebiotic, even in low doses, is Bioecolians. This proprietary prebiotic is made up of short glucose chains linked by glycosidic bonds, which are obtained from sugars by completely controlled enzymatic processes. Bioecolians resist hydrolysis in the stomach and absorption in the small intestine. It reaches the colon intact, where it is fermented by the beneficial bacteria in your colon, promoting their growth.
Eating a wide variety of whole foods containing good sources of fiber can boost satiety and help you feel your best!
- Kunzmann A, Coleman H, Huang W, et al. Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer and incident and recurrent adenoma in the prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancer screening trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015; 102(4): 881-890.
- High fiber diet associated with reduced CV risk in hypertension, type 2 diabetes patients. American College of Cardiology. 2019 https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-10/acoc-hfd093019.php
- Why Fiber is so good for you. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. n.d. https://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/education/why_fiber_is_so_good_for_you/
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.