“Consume more fiber.” You have probably heard it a million times already. But what do you think fiber does to you? Dietary fiber is best known for relieving constipation. But there are other ways it can make your life a gentle breeze. Keep reading – you’ll understand what we are talking about.
Table Of Contents
What Is Fiber?
Also known as roughage or bulk, fiber, or dietary fiber, is that portion of food derived from plants that you can’t digest or absorb. Your body can digest the other compounds in your food – like fats, proteins, and carbs. But fiber simply passes intact through your small intestine and colon and out of your body.
What Does Fiber Do To Your Body?
Before we see what it does to your body, we need to know the types of fiber – soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance. It can help lower the levels of blood sugar and blood cholesterol.
And insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. Which is why it can promote movement in your digestive system and increase the bulk of your stool. This type of fiber helps relieve constipation.
Interestingly, most plant-based foods contain both types of fiber. But since the amount of each type varies from one food to another, it is important you consume a wide variety of high-fiber foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables.
Fiber does a lot more than what you just saw. All of that is covered in this post. Keep going.
What Are The Benefits Of Fiber?
1. Fiber Aids Weight Loss
One interesting way fiber achieves this is by nourishing the gut bacteria. Studies have shown that healthy gut bacteria have a role to play in weight management (1). They can even fight obesity and metabolic syndrome. The good bacteria in the gut also fight inflammation, which is another major contributing factor to obesity (2).
Fiber can also keep you full and reduce your appetite, which can eventually lead to healthy weight loss.
According to a report by Harvard Medical School, taking 30 grams of fiber a day can lead to healthy weight loss and other associated benefits (3). And it is important to note that consuming enough water (at least 8 glasses a day) is what makes fiber work best (4). Water also acts against hunger, helping you reduce weight.
Did You Know?
Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, was one of the first physicians to argue for the benefits of fiber. He supported the fact that it kept the large intestine healthy.
2. Relieves Constipation And Improves Bowel Health
Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet can increase the number of stools you pass – and this is one sure way to treat constipation (5). This is how fiber works for most people with respect to easing constipation. However, certain individuals might be aggravating their symptoms by taking fiber (6). This can especially be true for patients with chronic constipation who had never had enough fiber in their diets before.
Whole grain foods work best for easing constipation. These include whole grain breads, cereals, and even pastas.
Dietary fiber improves bowel health and bowel movement. Studies have shown how fiber can improve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (7). Soluble fiber is found to be the ideal type in most cases of IBS. This type of fiber can help with diarrhea too – it can absorb the excess fluid in the stomach and firm up loose stools (8).
3. Helps Fight Diabetes
One thing to be happy about is that fiber, by itself, can never elevate your sugar levels. Because it can’t be digested. And the other thing to be happy about is it can reduce the impact carbs can have on blood glucose levels. The intestines take a lot more time to digest fiber-rich foods, and this slows down the release of glucose into your bloodstream. The American Diabetes Association dubs fiber intake as the most rational way to enhance a diabetic diet (9).
Studies also show that taking more than 26 grams of fiber a day can cut your diabetes risk. And a high intake of soluble fiber can improve type 2 diabetes (10).
4. Fiber Cuts Heart Disease Risk
As per the American Heart Association, dietary fiber can lower cholesterol levels and protect the heart. It can, in fact, prevent cardiovascular disease altogether (11).
Research has also shown how fiber can lower blood pressure levels, and this prevents heart attacks and stroke (12). Simply put, an increased intake of whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables offers varied amounts of fiber and protects the heart from disease.
5. Helps Prevent Cancer
We know that fiber helps the waste travel faster through the colon and out of the system. This waste can also contain carcinogens, and as fiber accelerates their excretion, it can help in cancer prevention (13).
Research has also shown that Africans, when compared to Americans, had astonishingly low rates of colon cancer – and this fact can be attributed to the high amounts of fiber in the typical African diet (14). And as per a report by the American Institute for Cancer Research, non-starchy veggies and fruits can prevent cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, and the stomach (15).
6. Treats Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids are swollen blood vessels on the outer rectum and anus – structures that make bowel movements quite painful. But according to research done at Harvard Medical School, including more fiber in the diet is the first step towards treating hemorrhoids (16). In case you are also going for fiber supplements, it is better to get psyllium husk fiber supplements. They can be effective in reducing pain, itching, bleeding, and even prolapse (17).
7. Cuts The Risk Of Gallstones And Kidney Stones
Studies have linked low fiber intake to an increased risk of gallstones. One American study had shown dietary fiber could prevent cholesterol gallstone formation (18). Studies also showed how dietary fiber could prevent the formation of kidney stones. This was especially true in postmenopausal women (19). Though there is more research required to understand whether the fiber can prevent kidney stones in people with a history of the stones or not, this is an encouraging step.
8. Fiber Can Strengthen Bones
Though there is less research here, one study speaks of how soluble corn fiber can increase bone retention in postmenopausal women (20).
However, we need more research before we can arrive at a conclusion.
Did You Know?
The quantity of fiber in our diets has dropped by a whopping 90% in the last hundred years.
9. Boosts Immunity
Several studies have shown that soluble fiber can boost the immune system. One such study conducted by the University of Illinois states that soluble fiber can reduce inflammation that is associated with obesity and strengthens immunity (21).
Also, the fiber we consume nourishes the billions of bacteria in our gut. Well-nourished gut bacteria enhance the immune system and keep it in good working order (22).
10. Improves Skin Health
Fiber helps move yeast and fungus out of your body through your system. If this doesn’t happen, they would be excreted through your skin and lead to acne and rashes. Also, consuming high amounts of fiber (in addition to drinking adequate water) can help the body flush out toxins. This prevents inflammation and clogged pores. In fact, constipation and other abdominal issues have also been linked to acne. Simply put – your skin health also depends on your gut health. Fiber works like an all-natural detox, clearing your GI tract of toxins. This positively impacts skin health too.
Well, those are some important benefits of fiber. Now we understand why it is critical to be conscious of our fiber intake and ensure we are getting enough of it.
But how? How do we ensure we get enough of it?
How To Include More Fiber In Your Diet
The following tips can help you incorporate more fiber into your diet:
- Go for a high-fiber cereal for breakfast. It can have 5 or more grams of fiber per serving. We suggest you opt for those fiber brands that have ‘whole grain’ or ‘bran’ or ‘fiber’ in the name.
- While baking, you can substitute white flour with whole-grain flour.
- Switch to whole grains. Experiment with barley, brown rice, bulgur wheat, and whole-wheat pasta.
- Include more of legumes in your diet. These include beans, peas, and lentils. Add kidney beans to your evening salad. Or make nachos with fried black beans.
- Consume more fruits and veggies. They are packed with fiber and other essential nutrients. Go for five or more servings a day.
- Snack intelligently. Low-fat popcorn or whole-grain crackers are smart snack choices. You can also snack on roasted nuts.
That’s how you ensure you get enough of the fabulous fiber. But wait – how much of it do you need? We already spoke of that earlier. But any specifics?
How Much Fiber Do You Need Daily?
Age 50 or below
Age 51 or above
Fiber is great. It smoothens your system and revitalizes you for sure. But only when you take it within limits. Excess fiber can cause downfall too.
What Happens When You Take Too Much Fiber?
Excess fiber can cause constipation, more so in people already struggling with the condition. Constipation happens with excess intake of soluble fiber.
This happens with excess intake of insoluble fiber. Too much of it, without enough soluble fiber, can accelerate the contents in your gut way too much – leading to diarrhea. In worst cases, it can also lead to dehydration.
- Bloating And Gas
Excess fiber can cause digestive discomfort, and this includes bloating and gas (flatulence). It can also lead to abdominal cramps.
- Mineral Deficiencies
Fiber binds to minerals (23). But excess fiber can bind to minerals so much that it hampers their effective absorption. This can lead to mineral deficiencies.
Fiber deficiency is quite common, unfortunately, and is also quite rampant. Which takes us to one question – what about your fiber intake?
Think about that, and ensure you include more fiber in your diet. We promise that you will see your lifestyle improving with time. More power to you!
Tell us how this post has made your life better. You can leave your comments in the box below. Cheers!
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