You likely have heard that you should be eating plenty of fiber-rich foods, but you may be wondering why fiber is important.
Fiber plays many roles in your health, especially your digestive and gut health.
When you’re preparing your meals, ensuring that you have plenty of fiber-rich foods on your plate will ensure that you’re supporting your digestion, preventing blood sugar spikes that can leave you feeling less than your best, and ensuring that you’ll feel nice and full for a longer amount of time.
Read on to explore why it’s so important and how you can make sure you’re getting plenty of fiber at each meal.
Why Fiber is Important to Consume Daily
Fiber, or called dietary fiber, is a plant-based carbohydrate that can’t be broken down into sugar molecules. Fiber is found in whole plant-based foods and acts like a broom that’s gently brushing out your intestines.
Supports Stable Blood Sugar Levels
There are many health benefits to eating enough fiber, particularly with our digestive system. Fiber acts to slow the rate of digestion, which can slow the rate of sugar being absorbed in the bloodstream, creating a vehicle for stabilizing blood sugars.
Eating whole foods rich in fiber, like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains which are also good sources of carbohydrates, will prevent blood sugar spikes, which can make you feel less than your best and also contribute to other health complications.
Helps Keep You Satiated
Because of the way fiber slows down the rate of digestion, it also plays a role in your body signaling that you’re full.
Helps Your Body Remove of Waste
Fiber, especially insoluble fiber, acts like a little broom that sweeps your intestines and colon of bacteria, builds up in your intestines, and can reduce your risk for colon cancer.
Another digestion benefit to eating enough fiber in your diet is the movement of your intestines. This is what helps you maintain regular bowel movements and prevent constipation.
Cultivates a Healthy Gut
In addition to providing digestion health benefits, eating enough fiber is good for your entire body! We know the majority of our immune system lies within our gut so it’s so important we take care of our gut health by eating enough probiotic-rich foods or prebiotic foods that promote healthy bacteria, regular bowel movements, regulate blood sugars, and better nutrient absorption.
Protects Your Heart Health and Cancer Prevention
Fiber plays a role in heart health — in a nutshell when you digest food it requires bile acids which are mostly made up of cholesterol.
Your liver pulls cholesterol from the bloodstream to create bile acids which can reduce the amount of LDL. Remember, LDL is the cholesterol more closely associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease so it’s important to pay attention to both your LDL and HDL.
Fiber also plays a role in cancer prevention or reducing the risk for certain types of cancer.
How to Get Plenty of Fiber-Rich Foods at Each Meal
When you’re using our system to create balanced meals, it guides you to ensure you have plenty of fiber-rich foods on your plate at each meal. In general 30-38g of fiber per day is the goal for obtaining the most health benefits noted above. Some people thrive on higher intakes while some due to certain health conditions require a little less. By learning a few of the common sources of fiber, you can ensure that you’re getting the fiber-rich foods you need at each meal and finding easy ways to add it if you notice you don’t have any.
Types Of Fiber
In general, there are a few types of fiber called soluble and insoluble and those are found in many plant-based foods. Animal products such as dairy, fish, chicken, fats don’t contain fiber.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. As it moves through your digestive system it’s fermented by bacteria and it’s typically hydrophilic meaning it loves water. This type of fiber absorbs water and becomes gel-like. Remember making chia seed pudding? Chia seeds are a great source of soluble fiber!
Soluble fiber, in particular, can reduce cholesterol, regulate blood sugars, and can improve overall digestive and immune health.
Great sources of soluble fiber include:
- most vegetables
- sweet potato
- dried figs
- flax seed
- chia seeds
- psyllium husk
- and more
Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water so as it goes through your digestive system it doesn’t change. Meaning, it doesn’t absorb water like soluble fiber and become gel-like, instead, it stays the same and like soluble fiber, it can also be fermented by bacteria in the colon.
Insoluble fiber promotes regular bowel movements since it contributes to the bulk of the stool, speeds up the elimination of waste through the colon, and maintains the pH of the intestines.
Many whole foods that contain insoluble fiber also contain soluble fiber.
Great sources of insoluble fiber are:
- bran cereals
- most whole grains
- vegetables like okra and corn
- and more
Now that you know why fiber is important for your health, you might be thinking, “Well, I saw a commercial about adding powdered fiber to my water so I can make sure I eat enough fiber and reap the benefits in an easy way.” First things first, if you can consume fiber from whole food sources, this is the best possible option.
We are still learning how whole foods work synergistically from the different nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber types within one whole food. Eating whole foods as your main source of fiber instead of supplements also promotes a healthy relationship with food, encourages cooking healthy, and challenges you to practice what you’re learning right now!
Fiber supplements really should be a last resort after you’ve exhausted consuming whole food rich in fiber and/or if you have a health condition per your doctor that requires you to consume them frequently. If you do reach for a fiber supplement, be sure to check in with your dietitian to make sure which option is the best for you. Always look for organic varieties, supplement companies that are USP certified, and follow the directions of your dietitian or doctor in taking them.
What to Do Now That You Know Why Fiber is Important
Now that you know why fiber is important, the first step is to stock your pantry and fridge with a few fiber-rich foods so you can have them on hand for your meals. As you go to make each of your meals, be sure to check your plate to see what food items are great sources of fiber and if you’re missing fiber, refer back to the list to add some in. With practice, you’ll be easily able to recall which fiber-rich foods are easy to add to different types of meals!