Consuming foods that are high in fiber has always been recommended by health professionals. However, it is rarely explained why fiber is so important. It is one of the most accessible dietary supplements that was at one time abundant in the Western diet. However, the mass production and consumption of animal products has resulted in smaller portions of fiber intake.
What Does Fiber Do for You?
Fiber works its magic mainly in the gastrointestinal tract–either by helping vitamins, minerals and other chemical compounds absorb into your system or by moving food along for healthy digestion.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
- Soluble fiber: (oranges, apples, pears, strawberries, raisins, cranberries, oats, broccoli, legumes, etc.) Fiber in this state is easily digestable. This enables it to aid in nutrient absorption.
- Insoluble fiber: (wheat, popcorn, lentils, sunflower seed, dried fruit especially prunes, granola, carrots, celery, etc.) This fiber cannot be digested by the body and acts primarily by moving food along inside the body. This helps maintain healthy bowels and prevents such afflictions as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive concerns. Think of insoluble fiber as a street cleaner for your colon–sweeping out all the residual waste.
Cholesterol is usually the poster child for the benefits of fiber. Studies show over and over that cholesterol levels drop dramatically per each gram of fiber intake.
By simply eating more fiber, both soluble and insoluble, it is highly likely that the body will react by making you feel more satiated or full. If you are trying to lose weight, consuming fiber can make the task that much easier. Soluble fiber specifically has been shown to slow down fat absorption and actually aid in the removal of fat through the intestines.
As stated, fiber reduces cholesterol which in turn reduces stress on the heart. Long-term studies have found that men who consumed 30 grams of fiber per day reduced their risk of heart attack by 1/3 compared to those who consumed 15% or less. In fact, it has been shown that for every 10 grams of fiber that you consume, the risk is reduced by 17%. Therefore, at 30 grams of fiber per day, heart disease is reduced by 51%.
By moving waste along, the risk of accumulated waste is reduced therefore lowering toxicity that can often lead to rectal cancer.
Breast cancer can sometimes be caused by high amounts of estrogen, which fiber can bind to and remove from the body. The liver sends estrogen surplus to the intestines where it comes in contact with fiber. A compound known as butyrate is mass produced, consuming the estrogen and reducing its re-absorption into the system.
Where Is Fiber?
Basically, any food that is not derived from an animal contains fiber. Fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains are the top four sources. Eat about 30 grams per day if you think you haven’t been getting enough fiber. This is a good, slow start. The gas and stomach cramps that fiber sometimes causes may be discouraging side effects, but eating fiber at slow intervals and drinking plenty of water can help alleviate these symptoms.