Fiber is an essential part of plant foods and is one of the reasons they are so good for you. Your body can’t digest or break down fiber. You’ve probably heard that fiber is healthy and you should eat more, but why is fiber so essential in a healthy diet?
Benefits Of Fiber
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Eating a high fiber diet can offer a multitude of health benefits. Dietary fiber (the type found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) is known to relieve constipation, detox the body, help you lose weight, and maintain a healthy and regular bowel. Eating plenty of fiber can even lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. There are plenty of delicious options when it comes to filling your diet with high fiber foods. By eating more fiber it can offer an array of health benefits.
Here are seven benefits of eating a high fiber diet:
- Maintain healthy bowels
- Promote healthy gut bacteria
- Help you lose weight
- Live longer
- Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- Support healthy skin
- Encourage heart health and lower cholesterol
What is a High Fiber Diet?
Dietary fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate that’s found in foods. It’s also known as roughage or bulk. Fiber is a part of plant foods that your body can’t break down. Instead, it passes through your stomach, small intestine, and colon, before eventually leaving the body. When you eat a diet high in fiber, it tends to include plenty of whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and legumes.
Fiber is split into two categories: soluble and insoluble. Soluble means it dissolves in water while insoluble doesn’t dissolve. The different types of fiber can have varying benefits. The amount of soluble and insoluble fiber changes depending on the food.
- Insoluble fiber - this type of fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. It’s a bulky type of fiber that helps to prevent constipation. As it holds onto water, it can help to produce softer stools. Sources of insoluble fiber include carrots, celery, tomatoes, and whole grains.
- Soluble fiber - this type of fiber dissolves in water into a gel-like substance. Benefits include lower cholesterol and blood sugar control. You can find soluble fiber in foods such as beans, citrus fruits, and nuts.
How Much Fiber Do You Need Every Day?
Depending on your age and gender, you should eat about 21-38 grams of fiber every day for optimal health. You can hit this target by eating about 6 ounces of whole grains, 2.5 cups of vegetables, and 2 cups of fruit each day. One thing to mention is that as you age, your fiber requirements decrease. So, if you’re over 70, the recommendation is between 21-30 grams, depending on gender.
If you’re not getting enough fiber each day, you may need to boost your intake. High fiber foods include:
- Nuts and seeds: sunflower seeds, pistachios, almonds, and pumpkin seeds
- Beans, peas, and legumes
- Fruit: bananas, apples, oranges, and strawberries
- Dark-colored vegetables: beets, broccoli, Swiss chard, and artichokes
- Whole grains: brown rice, bulgar wheat, and barley
Watch this video from Marzia Prince to tell you the best food sources of healthy fiber.
7 Amazing Benefits of Eating a High Fiber Diet
1. Maintain Healthy Bowels
Dietary fiber helps to maintain healthy bowels. It does this by encouraging regular bowel movements. Fiber often helps to relieve and prevent constipation by bulking up the stool and making it easier to pass. Dietary fiber helps to increase the weight of the stool. This means that the stool should be softer and more comfortable to pass which helps to prevent constipation in the first place.
A high fiber diet may help support your bowel health in general as well as keeping you regular. Studies show that a diet high in fiber may help to reduce the risk of gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) and ulcers. Eating plenty of fiber is also thought to reduce the risk of developing several conditions such as kidney stones, gallstones, hemorrhoids, and help provide some IBS relief.
Related: Symptoms of SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) , And How To Treat It
2. Promote Healthy Gut Bacteria
Your gut is made up of trillions of bacteria. A healthy balance of bacteria is needed for optimal health. A diet high in fiber actually feeds the good bacteria in your gut. The good bacteria in your gut needs this prebiotic fiber to thrive and flourish.
One study emphasized that the reason fiber is so important is closely linked to its effect on your gut microbes. A high fiber diet feeds the good bacteria which makes them multiply and grow. The more microbes you have and gut diversity, the better.
Related: The Gut-Brain Connection: How Gut Health Affects Your Mood
Starting a high fiber diet can result in symptoms like bloating, gas and diarrhea. A simple way to combat these symptoms is to start by slowly adding high fiber foods into your diet or by taking an enzyme. This helps to avoid any unpleasant side effects.
3. Help You Lose Weight
One of the benefits of eating fiber is that it helps you feel fuller longer. This helps to prevent overeating and unnecessary snacking between meals. In the long-term, this supports healthy weight loss as well as weight control.
Evidence suggests that by increasing your dietary fiber intake, it can help you lose weight as it automatically reduces your calorie intake as high fiber foods are generally lower in calories. Fiber absorbs water in the intestines which slows down nutrient absorption. This process helps increase feelings of fullness. It’s thought that soluble fiber is the best for weight loss as it works as a natural appetite suppressant.
Related: 12 Best Ways to Lose Weight, Tone, and Slim Down Naturally
4. Live Longer
Research from the University of New Zealand found that people who eat more fiber tend to live longer lives. This study found that people who ate between 25 and 29 grams of fiber per day could confer even greater benefit to protect against cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal and breast cancer. Although this isn’t the first study that shows the link between living longer and fiber, it’s one of the largest studies.
5. Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Control Blood Sugar
Studies show that eating a high fiber diet can benefit those with type 2 diabetes. The study found that a high fiber diet helps to control blood sugar and improve lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes.
A high fiber meal tends to slow down the absorption of the food meaning you’re less likely to experience a spike in blood sugar levels. In people with diabetes, it can be especially important to help control blood sugar spikes. Soluble fiber is particularly useful in controlling blood sugar spikes.
As well as benefiting those with type 2 diabetes, it appears that insoluble fiber can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In a massive review of multiple studies, evidence shows that those who consume a large amount of dietary fiber are much less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Related: Are You at Risk of Type 2 Diabetes?
6. Support Healthy Skin
You might not immediately think of healthy skin when considering your fiber intake. Sometimes, yeast and fungus can cause outbreaks when excreted through the skin. A high fiber diet helps to flush the toxins out the body more efficiently which can improve the appearance of the skin and leave it looking healthy. By giving your body the opportunity to flush out toxins effectively, other parts of your health should benefit.
Related: Collagen For Glowing Skin
7. Encourage Heart Health and Lower Cholesterol
Fiber is an essential part of a heart-healthy diet. It’s thought that a high fiber diet helps to lower cholesterol levels by decreasing the “bad” LDL cholesterol. Fiber may also help to lower blood pressure and weight around the abdomen, all of which support a healthy heart. On top of this, research shows that people who eat a diet high in fiber have a lower risk of developing heart disease.
In a review of 22 studies, researchers found that for every 7 grams of fiber you eat daily, your risk of developing heart disease decreases by 9%. This is partly down to the way fiber can soak up excess cholesterol and remove it from the body before it has a chance to clog up your arteries.
Related: 14 Ways to Naturally Prevent Heart Disease and Boost Heart Health
How to Get More Fiber in Your Diet
The majority of people don’t get enough fiber in their diet, but there are plenty of things you can do to slowly increase your fiber intake. It’s important to get your fiber from a variety of sources so that you eat a good combination of insoluble and soluble fiber. Here are a few ways to get more fiber in your diet and feel the benefits:
- Add beans like chickpeas and lentils to curries or salads
- Include veggies in every meal
- Snack on fruits, vegetables and nuts
- Choose whole grains instead of refined grains
- Try a fiber supplement
- Add chia seeds to your smoothie or salad
There are lots of simple ways you can add fiber to your diet. Slowly increase your fiber intake and find ways that work for you. Whether it’s switching your usual snacks for fruit or adding veggies to every meal, it’s down to you. Eating a diet high in fiber has a lot of benefits for your overall well-being and is an essential pillar of health.