Got Dietary Fiber?
You’ve probably heard time and time again just how good dietary fiber is for you and for maintaining a healthy diet. Sure, it’s known to help relieve and prevent constipation. But there are a host of other benefits of fiber that you might not be aware of.
What Is Fiber?
Dietary fiber is defined as the component of plant foods that the human body isn’t able to digest. Fiber, which is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, passes through the body essentially intact — as opposed to other components like carbs and proteins.
There are two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and turns into a gel-like material. Soluble fiber helps lower glucose levels, and is found mainly in citrus fruits, beans, apples and oats. Insoluble fiber is fiber that doesn’t dissolve, and helps increase stool bulk. Whole-wheat flour, green beans, potatoes and wheat bran are just some of the foods that are high in insoluble fiber.
There are numerous benefits to a high-fiber diet, as there’s been seemingly endless research on the subject for many years. One of the biggest benefits aside from its ability to normalize bowel movements is weight loss. It’s been shown that fiber has the ability to increase weight loss among obese people due to the fact that it makes you fuller quicker.
Fiber also has some lesser-known benefits, including lowering the risk of hemorrhoids and heart disease, relieving irritable bowel syndrome, decreasing the risk of a stroke and preventing gallstones and kidney stones.
While it’s essentially common knowledge that cereal, bran and whole grains are the best sources of fiber available, you should be careful when consuming them, as over consumption of these foods might actually do more damage than good.
“There’s no human requirement for grains. That’s the problem with the USDA recommendations. They think we’re hardwired as a species to eat grains,” Colorado State University professor Dr. Loren Cordain explained. “You can get by just fine and meet every single nutrient requirement that humans have without eating grains. And grains are absolutely poor sources of vitamins and minerals compared to fruits and vegetables and meat and fish.”
Breaking It Down
Although there are significant health benefits to a high-fiber diet, and more and more people are gravitating towards high-fiber “superfoods” like kale, some people have an extremely difficult time breaking down fiber in the body. This inability can cause gastric distress, which can be very, very painful.
Though it might be painful, it’s not a good idea to avoid consuming vegetables like kale that are rich in fiber altogether. Instead, stick to certain fiber-full veggies and even pay attention to the way it’s prepared.
“A diet rich in high fiber foods and vegetables is very beneficial. Taking time to identify the vegetables and the methods of preparation that cause the distress is better than eliminating fibrous vegetables,” Christine Zoumas, director of the Healthy Eating Program at UC San Diego Health, said.
“If the problem is gas, over the counter products, like Gas X, may be helpful. Kale is often highlighted because it is a good source of carotenoids and is a cruciferous vegetable. Spinach and many other dark green, leafy vegetables would be a good substitution for kale and its carotenoid content. There are also many cruciferous vegetables that can be substituted, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and cabbage.”
Fiber is an extremely beneficial component that has some very serious health benefits, and it’s important to adhere to the recommended daily amount of 20 to 30 grams per day in order to see the full effect. Balance fiber-rich foods in your diet and you’ll be helping yourself in ways you never even knew you were.