Dietary fiber is essential to our health for many reasons. The most widely known benefit is keeping us regular and eliminating properly, but there are plenty of other reasons you need to ensure you get adequate amounts in your daily meals.
Types of Dietary Fiber
Dietary fiber comes from the parts of plant-based foods that our bodies can’t digest or absorb. We generally get it from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Fiber falls under one of two classifications:
Soluble fiber – Soluble simply means the fiber will dissolve in water and our digestive fluid, which results in a gel-like consistency. This gel binds to parts of the food, preventing them from being absorbed by your body.
Soluble fiber also prolongs the time it takes for your stomach to empty, which slows the release of sugar and makes you feel satiated for a longer period of time. It also lowers blood cholesterol levels. You can find soluble fiber in foods like black beans, oats, apples, and citrus fruits.
Insoluble fiber – While insoluble fiber also goes through your system undigested, it does so intact. As such, it promotes regular bowel movements and increases the bulk of your stool. Insoluble fiber also promotes healthy gut bacteria and helps you feel fuller for a longer period of time.
Wheat bran, kidney beans, cauliflower, and lettuce are just a few examples of insoluble fiber sources.
How Much Fiber Do You Need?
Most of us don’t get enough fiber. The recommended amount is based on your caloric intake and since men and women have different healthy calorie consumption levels, the amount of fiber is different for both as well. Aim for about 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories you eat, which will put you somewhere between 25 and 35 grams each day.
So why do we need to be so mindful of how much fiber we eat? It’s not just about regulating our weight and bowel movements. There are so many potential health benefits:
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Fiber may protect against many different cancers, including colon cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer
- Reduced risk for stroke
- Reduced risk for developing hemorrhoids
- Since it regulates glucose levels, it’s particularly important for diabetics.
- The blood sugar regulating also lowers your chances for developing gallstones and kidney stones.
- It helps promote healthy skin by preventing the reabsorption of toxins from the colon, which can aggravate your skin.
Fiber is vital to all aspects of healthy living. If you think you aren’t getting enough, some simple changes can make a world of difference. Add an apple to your snacking routine, try a new soup recipe that incorporates legumes, sprinkle berries on your yogurt. The simple changes will add up before you know it!