Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables and grains. It’s benefits include lower blood pressure, reduced cholesterol and a feeling of satiety. Fiber is a carbohydrate that can’t be digested by the human body. We lack an the enzyme required to use fiber as energy. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. They each have unique functions that help improve your overall health.
Soluble fiber is responsible for reducing cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. In the intestine it binds to bile; a chemical that is made out of cholesterol and involved in the digestion of fats. It is then excreted from the body. Since the body needs this chemical, once it is excreted it makes more and reduces the level of cholesterol in the blood. This can also have a positive effect on blood pressure.
Source of soluble fiber are: legumes, root vegetables, fruits (specifically prunes, berries and plums), vegetables (specifically broccoli and carrots), oats, rye, barley and psyllium seed husk.
Insoluble fiber softens stool and increases its bulk. Sources of insoluble fiber are nuts, seeds, vegetables (particularly green beans, cauliflower, celery and zucchini), the skins of some fruits, bran and whole grain foods.
When you’re looking for foods that are high in fiber, stay away from items that are processed. Processing strips out the part of the food that is high in fiber so that it looks good and tastes better.
Eat breads that are made out of 100% whole wheat flours. Check the ingredients to make sure that this type of flour is listed first. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables without peeling them. In many cases, a large portion of the fiber is found in the peel. Aim for around 25 grams of fiber per day.
When increasing your intake of fiber, do it slowly over a period of weeks. Doing it too quickly can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort (which isn’t very fun). There are also plenty of fiber supplements on the market that can help you increase your intake. It’s always best to get your nutrients from the natural sources but if you can’t then supplements may be for you.
The Bottom Line
Fiber is a very important part of our diets. It has some very beneficial health effects and should not be ignored.