The Underrated Health Benefits of Fiber
Fiber has a wide range of health benefits. However, most people in the US are not getting their recommended daily intake (RDI) of 25–30 grams.
This article will help you to understand the health benefits of dietary fiber, food sources, and potential health risks of excessive fiber intake.
What is fiber?
Fiber is the part of carbohydrates that cannot be broken down into sugar molecules by your digestive enzymes, which means that it just passes through the intestinal tract.
They’re 2 types of fiber:
- Soluble fiber dissolves in water. It is also referred to as prebiotic fiber and delays gastric emptying, which can help you to feel full longer. Foods rich in soluble fiber include beans, oats, oat bran, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, apples, strawberries, peas, and potatoes
- Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and provides bulking, which aids digestion. Good sources of insoluble fiber include wheat bran, rice bran, fruit and vegetable skins, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.
The health benefits of fiber:
As described above, fiber bulks up in your stomach and can thus help to regulate your appetite. Research suggests that increasing fiber intake by 14 grams per day can lead to a 10% decrease in energy intake and an average body weight loss of 1.9 kg over 3.8 months.
An increased intake of soluble fiber is also linked to improved insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic and diabetic individuals, which can help to prevent or manage diabetes.
Apart from that, research suggests that fiber can help to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol — also referred to as the “bad” cholesterol — can cause artery-clogging. That’s why high fiber intake is also associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
Fiber also aids digestion, and some research suggests that it can be beneficial to prevent colon cancer.
Potential risks of (excessive) fiber consumption
When you increase your fiber intake too quickly, you might experience bloating or abdominal pain. Consuming excessive amounts of fiber can also hinder the absorption of minerals such as iron, calcium or zinc.
Apart from that, eating fiber can reduce the absorption of certain medications, so it’s important to check-in with your health care provider if there could be any potential complications when you start increasing your fiber intake.
How much fiber is too much?
This depends on your individual tolerance, but a fiber intake of 70 grams is considered to have adverse effects. If you’re not used to eating a fiber-rich diet, it can be helpful to increase the amount slowly and carefully.
It’s also recommended to spread your fiber consumption throughout the day instead of eating it all at one meal.
How can you sneak more fiber in your day?
Add berries to your breakfast. Raspberries or blackberries provide you with 8 grams of fibers per cup — that’s already one-third of your recommended daily intake.
Don’t peel your apples. The skins of apples and vegetables are excellent sources for soluble fiber.
Try chia or flaxseeds. Two tablespoons of chia provide you with 10 grams of fiber, flaxseeds with 8 grams. You can add them to yogurt or smoothies. Both seeds are also rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
Snack on roasted fava beans. 100 grams of fava beans contain 25 grams of fiber and are also a great source of iron.
In good health,
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