Fiber is a type of insoluble or soluble carbohydrate that does not get digested in the system. Both types fill you up, but soluble fiber gives you a little more benefit than insoluble. When consumed, it attracts water and forms a gel-like consistency in your stomach. This gel helps block the absorption of cholesterol, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease. It’s recommended to take 5 to 10 grams of fiber per day for the best health benefits. Many natural whole foods like legumes, grains, fruits, vegetables, and flax seeds, have a high content of soluble fiber, which is always better to choose over a fiber powder supplement if one can help it.
To get the low down on it’s importance, here are 9 facts about fiber:
1. Fights disease. A diet high in fiber can help to prevent colon cancer and heart disease. It helps the body to eliminate cholesterol by binding it in the digestive tract. For thousands of years, fiber has been used to stop constipation.
2. Fiber can actually help with overeating. All high fiber foods will take longer to chew and digest, making you feel satisfied longer.
3. Most popular conventional refined prepackaged foods don’t have enough fiber, but tend to be high in sugar, white flour, and other fillers. If your diet consists primarily of these popular conventional foods, you probably need to consider increasing your intake of fiber either through adding real natural food choices, or using a supplement.
4. Brussel sprouts have one of the highest amounts of soluble fiber in the cruciferous plant world. About 1/2 cup of brussel sprouts equal 2 grams of fiber.
5. Kids need fiber as well. Children that are older than 2 years of age should consume a daily intake of it. Kids are most receptive to fiber found in fruits, vegetables, and even fortified breakfast cereals. Always try to get organic cereal brands that use wholesome real natural ingredients.
6. More fiber needs more water. In order to keep fiber moving through your digestive tract, you’ll need to consume a lot of water, eight or more glasses every day. Best rule of thumb at minimum is to drink half your body weight in ounces per day. So if you are 100 pounds, drink 50 oz. of water every day. More is always better, especially if you consume a fiber rich diet.
7. Fiber cannot be cooked out. Although it’s not advised to cook fruits and veggies to the point of mush as they lose nutrients when applied to heat, the fiber will still be there. When cooking veggies, you want them slightly steamed and still somewhat crisp. Boiling veggies destroys their nutrient content. The fiber found in fruits and vegetables isn’t just in the skin or in the peel, but also in the fleshy parts.
8. Be careful of too much! If you eat more than 50 grams in a day, it can have an adverse affect differently in people ranging from severe constipation to diarrhea and bloating, which can interfere with your body’s absorption of other key minerals in the digestive tract. Moderation is key here!
9. Seeds and nuts have a moderate amount of fiber — most of it insoluble. Flaxseeds are an exception. One single tablespoon contains 1.1 grams of soluble fiber. Flaxseeds also contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which also help reduce the risk of heart disease. It’s best to grind your flax seeds as consuming them whole will not get broken down, thus they come out whole. But by grinding them and cracking open the outside of the seed, allows you to get to the good stuff inside. Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds to your bowl of oatmeal, healthy cookies, salad, or even yogurt helps boost soluble-fiber content of your meals.
As one of the key ingredients to healthy eating, fiber is something you don’t want to skimp on. The good news is you don’t have to overhaul your diet or lifestyle completely to include getting more of it. Being mindful about the foods you consume that contain it or not, and taking small simple steps to add it here and there throughout your day will make make a noticeable difference in how you feel.