Benefits of Fiber

When talking about nutrition and tracking what you eat, we often focus on the main 3 macronutrient protein, carbohydrates and fats.  But Those obviously aren’t the only things we care about, there are other factors that are important with your nutrition.  One of those things is fiber.  Fiber has multiple functions in our body and is very important.  So in this article I want to cover the types of fiber, their benefits, and where you can get your fiber.

Types of Fiber

Fiber naturally comes from the plants we eat.  They are the part of the plant that do not get digested, but rather pass through our system.  There are really two main types of fiber.  There is soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber slow down digestion by forming a gel with water, which helps you feel full longer.  This is one way that it helps control weight.  The slower you digest your food, the less you will want to eat.  And it also positively affects blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity.  So soluble fiber is important for people with diabetes.  It also interferes with the body’s ability to absorb dietary cholesterol, which in turn helps lower LDL, or the bad blood cholesterol.

Insoluble fiber is maybe the type of fiber you’re more familiar with if you’re thinking about fiber supplements.  Insoluble fiber helps prevent constipation, as it has a laxative effect.  This type of fiber does not dissolve in water and does not break down in your digestive tract.  It basically speeds up the passage of food through your system.

So as you can see, the two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, play different roles in your body, but both are important.

Sources of Fiber

So now that you know why fiber is important, and a little bit about the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber, what are good sources of both?  Both come from plants, but there are different sources for each.

Soluble fiber can be found in:

-Oatmeal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, flaxseeds, blueberries, strawberries, nuts, beans, cucumbers, celery  and carrots to name a few sources.

Insoluble fiber can be found in:

-Whole wheat, whole grains, broccoli, seeds, nuts, barley, brown  rice, zucchini, celery, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, raisins, grapes, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, root vegetable skins, cabbage and couscous.

How Much Fiber Do I Need?

Naturally, the next question is how much fiber should you be eating.  You know the health benefits, but how many grams should you be getting in your diet?

For women, from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should be consuming around 25 grams of fiber total.

For men, the recommendation is 30-38 grams of fiber total.

Unless you’re specifically trying to lower cholesterol, don’t worry too much about the types of fiber.  Eating a diet that has plenty of plant foods and variety will ensure that you get enough soluble and insoluble fiber.  Most people don’t eat enough fiber, if that’s you try to eat more whole grains, raw vegetables, whole fruits, seeds, legumes, nuts, etc.

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