Most people associate fiber with constipation. Although fiber does aide in helping to normalize your bowel movements, it also has abundant benefits for other digestive health concerns. Studies have also found that adequate fiber intake can lower cholesterol, promote healthy blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
What is dietary fiber? Dietary fiber includes the parts of plant-based foods that your body does not digest or absorb. Instead of your body digesting fiber, as it does fats, proteins and carbohydrates, fiber passes through your stomach and small intestines and then out of your body. There are two classifications of fiber and it’s important to include both in your diet:
- Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. Sources of soluble fiber are oats, legumes (beans, peas, and soybeans), apples, bananas, berries, barely, some vegetables, and psylluim.1
- Insoluble fiber increases the movement of material through your digestive tract and increases your stool bulk. Sources of insoluble fiber are whole wheat foods, bran, nuts, seeds, and the skin of some fruits and vegetables. 1
What are the health benefits of fiber?
- Helps Maintain Bowel Health– Fiber is considered a prebiotic and helps to increase healthy bacteria, or probiotics, that live in your intestines. This bacteria is important for proper digestion and can also improve immune response and prevent the development of food allergies.
- Has Heart Health Benefits– Fiber helps lower LDL, or “bad”, cholesterol levels. Studies also show that fiber aides in reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
- Controls Blood Sugar Levels– Soluble fiber slows the body’s absorption of sugar. This is particularly beneficial for people with diabetes but also helps reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Helps You Maintain A Healthy Weight– Fibrous foods take longer to chew, giving your body time to register when you’re full, decreasing your chance of overeating.
Where Can You Get Fiber?
The best sources of fiber are from plant-based foods. When choosing grains, eat “whole grains” and avoid processed and refined grains. Steel-cut oats, barley and quinoa are great whole grain sources of fiber. Beans and nuts, including almonds, pecans and walnuts are also high in fiber. Fruits and vegetables such as kale, pumpkin, apples and figs are full of fiber and are abundant during the fall season.