Everything You Need to Know About Fiber

Everything You Need To Know About Fiber

You’ve probably been told to increase your fiber intake or make sure to get plenty of fiber. But what is fiber? And how do you know when you’ve had enough? Take a look at the basics of fiber and how it can benefit your bowels.

What is Fiber?
Fiber is found in the cell walls of plants. Fiber comes from plant-based foods, such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. In addition to naturally occurring fiber, fiber may be added to processed foods.

When you hear about references to dietary fiber, the reference is to long-chain carbohydrates, including resistant starches, that are undigested in the small intestine. These forms of fiber are broken down in the large intestine by microbes.

How is Fiber Classified?
Fiber is often classified as soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel as it moves through the digestive system, attracting cholesterol and eliminating it from the body. For diabetics and those with high blood sugar, soluble fiber can help regulate blood sugar levels. Sources of soluble fiber can be found in barley, oat bran, beans, nuts, seeds, peas, lentils, pears, and berries.

Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and moves more quickly through the digestive system. Insoluble fiber aids digestion by preventing constipation and adding bulk to stools. It can be found in sources such as whole grains, couscous, barley, brown rice, bulgur, seeds, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, celery, and tomatoes.

You may also see fiber classified as either “dietary” or “functional” on food labels. Dietary fiber refers to fiber that occurs naturally in foods, and functional fiber refers to fiber that has been added to foods to increase health benefits. The dietary fiber label refers to all the types of fiber that are in the food.

How Does Fiber Help with Health?
Fiber is commonly recommended for a host of gastrointestinal disorders since it helps to promote healthy digestion and prevent constipation. But the health benefits of a high-fiber diet also include a reduced risk of heart disease, regulating blood sugar, and reducing the risk of developing some types of cancer. In addition, fiber is noted as being party of healthy diet that supports a healthy weight and normal body mass index (BMI).

Guidelines for fiber intake suggest 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.

What are Sources of Fiber?
Although it is best to enjoy whole foods for sources of fiber, look for packages labeled “good source of fiber.” Otherwise, stick to whole foods, such as vegetables, whole grain breads, beans, legumes, and fruits. For those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal disorders, your doctor may recommend augmenting your diet with fiber supplements to increase your daily intake and get your system regulated.

If you are not used to eating a full fiber diet, it is recommended that you increase your daily intake of fiber slowly to avoid sudden upsets, like gas and bloating. Also increase your water intake accordingly since water helps fiber to move through the digestive tract more easily.

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