Beyond the Bathroom: The Lesser Known Benefits of Fiber
Photo by Melissa Belanger on Unsplash
Written by Nicole Hawkins, MA, RD
You’ve likely heard that fiber helps keep you regular, but did you know that fiber can help with a whole host of other things related to your health? Additionally, there are different types of fiber that perform different roles in keeping you healthy.
Fiber is a carbohydrate that your body cannot break down and thus passes through your gastrointestinal (GI) tract undigested. There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can help lower cholesterol. Foods like nuts, beans and legumes, apples, and avocados contain soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and helps promote regularity. Foods like whole grains, carrots, potatoes, and prunes contain insoluble fiber.
How much fiber should you consume each day? It’s recommended that women consume 25 grams of fiber per day and men consume 38 grams of fiber per day. However, most Americans do not consume enough fiber in their diets. Eating a balanced diet - rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and whole grains - can help you reach the recommended fiber intake. Our Daily Multi-Fiber Blend is here to help! Adding this tasty coconut lime flavored powder to your morning smoothie or a soothing hot tea can help boost your fiber intake in addition to eating fiber rich foods.
Now, for the ways in which fiber can impact your health:
- Fiber helps lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber, found in foods like oats, beans, fruits and veggies, can help lower your bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). The fiber in these foods binds to the LDL cholesterol and the fiber + cholesterol gets excreted from your body. 5-10 grams of soluble fiber per day can help you decrease your cholesterol1.
- Fiber prevents blood sugar spikes. Fiber takes longer to move through your stomach which keeps your blood sugar from spiking after eating. This is especially important for those with diabetes. However, avoiding blood sugar spikes and crashes (you know, that 3 pm slump) is helpful for everyone’s energy levels.
- Weight maintenance with the help of fiber. High fiber foods are typically more filling than low fiber foods leading to greater satiation and fullness after eating. This means less calories consumed to reach fullness and satiety, promoting weight maintenance. High fiber foods also take longer to digest leaving you feeling fuller for longer and grabbing for snacks less often. One study even found that high-fiber, low-calorie foods such as blueberries, apples, pears, cauliflower, peppers, and broccoli were most effective in the support of weight loss compared to starchy vegetables like potatoes or corn.
- Fiber plays a role in reducing heart disease risk. Fiber is thought to help reduce heart disease risk by helping lower both cholesterol and blood pressure. Consuming a high fiber diet has also been linked to lower incidence of metabolic syndrome, and metabolic syndrome increases risk for heart disease. Fiber is a really important part of your diet and something we could all use a little more of. Its health benefits extend beyond helping you in the bathroom, and hopefully with this knowledge, you will find ways to add more fiber to your diet. A balanced diet and fiber supplementation can help you reach the recommended intake each day.
- Bertoia M.L., Mukamal K.J., Cahill L.E., Hou T., Ludwig D.S., Mozaffarian D., Willett W.C., Hu F.B., Rimm E.B. Changes in intake of fruits and vegetables and weight change in United States men and women followed for up to 24 years: Analysis from three prospective cohort studies. PLoS Med. 2015;12 doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001878.