The health benefits of fiber have been proven over decades of research. But fiber benefits the body in many ways. And a few of these benefits have not been covered by the mainstream health establishment. Here I will try to touch on some of those as well the underlying reasons for some of these health benefits.
Benefits of Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber combines with water and forms a kind of gel in our digestive tracts. The presence of this fiber has many beneficial effects. Soluble fiber slows the absorption of sugars and starches into the blood stream.
Have you ever heard of the Glycemic Index? This is real science. Slowly digestible carbohydrates have been shown to have many advantages over their junk food counterparts. This is especially true for type 2 diabetics.
Soluble fiber also binds to bile acids in the digestive tract reducing cholesterol, you may have heard about this health benefit while watching a commercial for your favorite breakfast cereal. Soluble fiber also binds up many other toxins in the digestive tract, eliminating them through frequent bowel movements.
Soluble fiber is not absorbed into your body, but it is used as a food source for the beneficial probiotic bacteria in our digestive tracts. Probiotics benefits are well researched. Along with multiplying the beneficial bacteria and preventing a state of dysbiosis, essential fatty acids are produced that also contribute to good health.
Benefits of Insoluble Fiber
Insoluble fiber moves through the digestive tract in a solid form and helps promote regularity. It also acts as a natural cleaning mechanism picking up any toxins along the way and removing them from the human body.
One thing that both types of fiber have in common is that they contribute to a sense of being full. For the simple fact that they contain indigestible bulk they are naturally more filling than their junk food counterparts. Individuals that consume a diet high in both types of fiber have been shown to have lower levels of body fat, and be at lesser risk of diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Recommended Daily Amount of Fiber
The recommended daily amount of fiber varies based on age, weight, gender and calorie consumption. If you consume a 2500 calorie a day diet, your dietary fiber intake should be about 35 grams. To enjoy the health benefits of fiber, this amount can be obtained either by foods or a fiber supplement.
Best Food Sources of Dietary Fiber
Some of the best food sources of soluble fiber include, oats, beans, lentils, apples, peas, citrus fruits, berries, sweet potatoes, pears, barley and artichokes.
Some excellent sources of insoluble fiber include wheat bran, most other whole wheat products and any fruit or vegetable with a skin.
Glucomannan is a soluble fiber that has gained popularity recently. It is a relative of the sweet potato and has been shown to work well as a laxative and prebiotic. It’s beneficial effects are similar to psyllium, but has been shown to be better tolerated, especially for people intolerant of grains. All reported glucomannan side effects have been mild and usually include abdominal discomfort or gas.
An important thing to understand is how our diets have become a nightmare of processed, manufactured junk. White breads are referred to as “enriched” simply because the manufacture has added some B vitamins to the finished “product.”
They make no mention of all the nutrients that have been removed from the fluffy white food product they have created.
Even when consuming fruits and vegetables this is important to understand. A potato with the skin has a good amount of fiber. If you remove the skin it now has about half. After you process it into dehydrated mashed potato flakes it may have less than 1 gram. Whole foods are best.
Gastrointestinal distress is widespread, and also big business in the United States. If you watch TV for 2 hours you will see ads for products targeting everything GI related: acid reflux, stomach aches, constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, hemorrhoids…now even dysbacteriosis.
In my opinion, these are all related. We must stop thinking of our GI tract as completely separate organs. They are different parts of the same system. A disruption to one is a disruption to all, or at least most. This is not normal, we do it to ourselves. The good news is that under most circumstances these conditions can be easily corrected.