Did you know fiber is actually a type of carbohydrate? But before you let that ‘C’ bomb make you cringe uncomfortably, you should know it doesn’t work the same way as other types of carbohydrates we eat. In this post, we’ll go through them and answer the question: What is fiber?
Fiber makes up the structural material of roots, stems, and leaves of plants. As a result, it’s basically indigestible, so it passes through our body without breaking down until the very end (in the large intestine) – but it means almost no extra calories for us. And of the few calories it does provide, this is more than offset by its ability to boost our health. (And our skills on the toilet…)
Two Types of Fiber
Insoluble fiber tends to increase the rate food moves through our digestive system, and helps increase stool bulk. It does this by absorbing water as it moves through our digestive system (it doesn’t dissolve in water). So basically, if you’re often constipated, your diet may be severely lacking insoluble fiber! It’s found mainly in wheat bran, nuts, and the skin of many vegetables.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water, to form a gel-like substance through the digestive system. This allows it to slow movement of food through digestion, as well as slow absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream – particularly useful for curbing the rate sugar gets into our blood. It’s found mainly in oats, legumes, barley, apples, bananas, and some vegetables.
Why Should I Care About Fiber?
Regulates Digestion (Helps You Poo!)
If you’re prone to being constipated, then it’s high time you get more insoluble fiber into your diet before you clog up completely. Nasty. (Drinking more water and physical activity helps promote bowel movements as well).
Prevents Many Diseases
High fiber intake has been linked with the prevention of many chronic diseases and cancers for decades now, such as cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes. These trends have been spotted mainly in observational studies- that is studies that don’t prove exact cause-and-effect.
(To conduct studies that conclusively prove fiber prevents some diseases and cancers – eliminating all other outside influences – is almost impossible to do, and would require very lengthy studies.) As a result we can only say that many benefits of fiber intake are highly probable.
What we do know is it’s definitely necessary for our body to function efficiently, so I’d be having it!
Helps Curb Weight Gain
Review studies are all on the same page with the relationship between fiber and weight. People who consume more soluble fiber in their diet lose more weight than those who don’t.
This is because soluble fiber requires more chewing to break down, and prolongs the transit time of food in the gut. So it makes our body feel fuller for longer, which means over the course of the day we eat less food in total.
Bonus Fiber Tips
- We now have functional fiber – manufactured fiber that is marketed as a supplement or added to processed foods to make them “healthier”. Functional fiber doesn’t always provide the health benefits we expect. Fiber found in whole, natural foods is by far the best choice.
- The current recommendations for fiber intake are 38g/day for men, and 25g/day for women. For me this is equivalent to eating 9 apples, which I don’t think I could manage daily! I recommend just eating a diet with a wide variety of fiber-rich foods in order to provide you with a range of nutrients and health benefits.
- Nutritionists must talk in detail about what we put into our bodies… and what comes out. Yay.
We hope this article helped you understand fiber and why it’s important for your body. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments!