As humanity continues on its headlong tilt towards convenience food, we have somehow managed to convince ourselves that fiber needs to be removed from food. We want our meals packed with as much flavor as possible, with other parts that make up the meal removed.
When we compare our diet with countries with fiber-rich diets, we find that we have much higher rates of diseases like colorectal cancer and diabetes, and some scientists have attributed this to the significant role fiber plays in digestion
What Is Fiber?
Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate found naturally in nature. It is perhaps this designation that led to five being treated as a waste substance in food processing in the first place, as fiber does not significantly contribute to the calorie load of most meals.
What fiber does is serve as a bulking agent that enhances digestion and gives our stomach the impression that it is full. You may already be able to draw the link between this attribute and portion control, and you’re absolutely right.
Eating more fiber means that you can give your stomach the impression that you have eaten a lot of food while restricting the amount of calories you actually take in, and this plays a vital role to people who are trying to lose weight without the ensuing hunger pangs.
In recognition of fiber’s importance, most nutritionists have advice that adults take between 25 and 38 grams per day in order to remain healthy.
What Is Soluble and Insoluble Fiber?
The difference between these two forms of fiber lies in how they function in the body.
For example, soluble fiber acts like a sort of sponge in the body, retaining water and giving your body the impression that it has eaten a hefty meal. Examples of soluble fiber include oats, legumes, edible plant skins, and nuts.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, does not absorb water at all. When ingested, it functions as a bulk forming agent that stretches out the walls of your intestines and encourages peristalsis. This is the automatic movement of your bowel that contributes to the formation of stool.
Examples of insoluble include veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, wheat bran, and whole-grain foods like whole-wheat pasta and brown rice. It is generally recommended that you include a 75:25 percent mix of soluble and insoluble fiber in your diet to obtain the most benefits.
Why Should I Include Fiber In My Diet?
As anyone who has ever had indigestion knows, bowel dysfunction can really mess up your day. The benefits of a diet rich in fiber is not restricted to the short-term however, as studies have shown that fiber can actually help you live longer.
This is because people who adhere to a fiber-rich diet have been shown to have much lower rates of illnesses like hypertension, heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Fiber can help you remain trim.
Part of this is due to its ability to give you the sensation of satiation without you having to eat a staggering amount of food, but it could also be attributed to the ability of a fiber-rich diet to regulate your blood sugar levels and stop you from having to snack in the first place.
Fiber’s ability to cleanse your digestive system is seriously underrated. It serves as a natural cleansing material that removes any food particles stuck in the many folds of your intestine, reducing your chances of developing colorectal carcinoma and diverticulitis.
Adding as little as 25 to 40 g of fiber to your meals every day will reduce your chances of having to go to the hospital for treatment for diverticulitis or colorectal cancer.
Blood Pressure Control
Scientists still don’t understand how fiber helps to control blood pressure, but the evidence shows that patients with a fiber-rich diet require medication less often than regular patients.
Aside from helping control blood pressure, fiber’s effect on cholesterol regulation has also continued to intrigue scientists. It has inspired a new science where nutritionists use diet to help patients improve their health outcomes.
Fiber helps regulate cholesterol by depleting the body’s reserves of bile salts which are themselves from cholesterol.
Together with its control of blood pressure regulatory electrolytes like potassium, fiber exerts an effect on practically every sphere of the body’s function including the immune system, cognition and digestion.