He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything. -Arabian Proverb
“Having issues emptying your bowels? Eat some fiber.” Now this is a line as old as time. One that depicts a core benefit of fiber. But do you know fiber does much more than that? Fibers have a variety of functions. Even if you’re blessed with flawless digestion, adequate fiber consumption is crucial in reducing risk of cardiovascular diseases. It also improves gut health, bolster the immune system, and decreases inflammation.
You might be wondering what this five letter word actually is. Well, fiber is simply a type of carbohydrate found naturally in plant-based foods, and it is not digestible in humans. Examples of such plant-based foods are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds. These foods also contain vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients that the body needs for optimal health.
As earlier mentioned, fiber cannot be digested. Nonetheless, it moves down the digestive tract when nutrients are being digested, and in that process, impacts on our health. The issue in recent times is, many individuals are getting less than half of the daily intake recommendations. This is 14 grams (g) for every 1,000 calories of food. An easier recommendation level for most adults is between 25 and 38 g per day. In fact, fiber is listed as a “nutrient of concern” due to the low overall intake and its known health benefits.
TYPES OF FIBER
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber. While both are vital, they function differently in the body. Here’s how:
This is a type of fiber that attracts water and forms a gel. This gel slows down digestion process, and can be beneficial for weight loss. Foods high in soluble fiber include oats, legumes, edible plant skins, and nuts.
This type of fiber functions in opposition to soluble fiber. It repels water. It is found in foods like veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, wheat bran, and whole-grain foods such as whole-wheat pasta and brown rice. Its major benefit is to provide bulk to stool and aid in movement through the digestive tract. Most diets are a mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber, with 75 percent being insoluble fiber and 25 percent as soluble fiber. Now that we know the different types of fiber and their functions, let’s dig further and unveil their varying benefits.
BENEFITS OF FIBER
Prolonged Life Span
Do you know fiber may help prolong your lifespan? Studies suggest that folks who eat a higher intake of fiber tend to have lower rates of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure (hypertension), and digestive diseases. These are some of the common causes of high mortality rate in the world. You can help improve or prevent health conditions such as prediabetes, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and various digestion problems, like constipation, colon cancer, and diverticulitis, simply by upping your fiber intake.
Research suggests nutrients like fiber can play a major role in body weight. Normal-weight and overweight people have been found to have higher intake of dietary fiber than obese individuals. Other studies continue to suggest that high fiber intake reduces weight gain as we age. The mechanism being, fiber expands and bulks food in the GI tract, slowing digestion. This can increase satisfaction from food and help stabilize blood sugar levels. Foods high in fiber also tend to be lower in energy density, that is, they will help you feel fuller without consuming excessive calories. This concept is at the core of why a higher fiber diet is associated with a lower rate of obesity.
Fiber keeps the body’s pipes clear and reduces carcinogenic activity. One advantage of getting enough fiber in your diet is reducing the risk of diverticulitis, a condition whereby pouches formed in the colon become infected. Fiber keeps food clear from the pouches and instead, ensure they move through the digestive tract. It is important to note, that taking 25 to 40 g of fiber per day helps reduce the risk of diverticulitis.
Soluble and insoluble fiber play a crucial role in warding off colon cancer.
Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Reduction
Our body uses bile salts, excreted by the gallbladder, to break apart the fat content in food. When we eat food with fiber, the fiber binds to the bile salts, preventing them from being recirculated for the next time we eat. Therefore our body must produce more bile salts by taking cholesterol from the liver since bile salts are made up of cholesterol. This way, soluble fiber reduces blood cholesterol. To lower your blood cholesterol by 3 to 5 percent, aim to take in at least 5 to 10 g of soluble fiber per day. Fiber has a preventative role on blood pressure, too, but the reason is more associated with nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium contained in foods high in fiber. Recently, data has emerged on the ability of fibres to impact our immune system, our mood, and memory by promoting healthy bacteria in the gut.
BEST SOURCES OF FIBER
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established a daily value for foods and supplements with food labels. The daily value for fiber being 25 g. Here are some foods, and the daily value of fiber they have to offer:
- Passion fruit (1 cup): 25g, 100 percent
- Breadfruit (1 cup): 11g, 44 percent
- Raspberries (1 cup): 8g, 32 percent
- Blackberries (1 cup): 8g, 32 percent
- Boysenberries and gooseberries (1 cup): 7g, 28 percent
- Pear (1 medium): 6g, 24 percent
- Prunes (5 pieces): 3g, 12 percent
- Artichoke (1 large): 9g, 36 percent
- Lima beans (1 cup): 9g, 36 percent
- Green peas (1 cup): 8g, 32 percent
- Lentils (½ cup): 8g, 32 percent
- Kidney beans (½ cup): 6g, 24 percent
- Sweet potato (½ cup, mashed): 4g, 16 percent
Nuts and Seeds
- Chia seeds (1 ounce (oz)): 10g, 40 percent
- Flaxseeds (1 oz): 6g, 40 percent
- Pumpkin seeds (1oz): 5g, 20 percent
- Almonds (1 oz): 4g, 16 percent
- Raisin Bran (1 cup): 7g, 28 percent
- Shredded wheat (2 biscuits): 6g, 24 percent
- Oat bran (1 cup): 6g, 24 percent
- Brown rice (1 cup): 4g, 16 percent
As amazing as fibers are, taking in too much of them can be harmful to your health. As a sudden increase in fiber, inadequate fluid intake, and inactivity, can lead to gas, bloating and diarrhea. Consuming more than 50 g of fiber per day, may also lead to mineral binding. This is a situation whereby the body excretes the fiber instead of absorbing them. Some of the minerals at risk of binding include calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
BREAKFAST RECIPE ADEQUATELY RICH IN FIBER
Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
Makes 1 serving
|This recipe is||Vegan||Veg||Gluten-Free||Dairy-Free|
|Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal||✔||✔||*||✔|
* If using gluten-free oats and/or spices
- ⅓ cup regular oats
- 1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
- ⅓ cup pumpkin puree, canned
- 1 tsp flax seeds, ground
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp pecans, chopped
1. In a medium size pot, heat oats and almond milk until almost boiling.
2. Stir in pumpkin, flax seeds, and vanilla
3. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, until desired consistency is reached.
4. Serve in bowl and top with cinnamon, maple syrup, and pecans. Enjoy!
|Per serving oatmeal|
Tips on Fiber Intake
1. In place of fruit juices, eat whole fruits.
2. Replace white rice, bread, and pasta with brown rice and whole grain products.
3. As a breakfast choice, lean more to cereals having whole grains as their first ingredient.
Ready to rightly up your fibre intake, but have trouble getting started? Contact me to schedule a free consultation, the first step to a healthier you.
A.M.E.N To A Healthier You!