For most people, it is no secret that fiber is good for you. However, most Americans don’t consume nearly as much fiber as recommended for good health, and are unable to reap all of the benefits that fiber offers. The National Fiber Council recommends an average of 32 grams of fiber per day, but most Americans consume only about 10-15 grams per day. That is disappointing news, considering that it is reasonably simple to increase your fiber intake if you know where to look and if you understand fiber’s tremendous health benefits. To get you started, click here for a list of the fiber content in common foods, then read on to discover 3 of the top ways fiber positively impacts your health and well-being.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death among adults in the United States. Fortunately, a high-fiber diet can lower your risk of heart disease by 30%, compared to a low-fiber diet. There are two main types of fiber: soluble fiber, which dissolves in water; and insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water. Both types of fiber are beneficial, but soluble fiber plays a key role in heart health by helping to lower cholesterol. Excess amounts of fat and cholesterol deposits can cause thickening and hardening of the inner lining of artery walls, which can lead to heart disease. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance that traps cholesterol and carries it through the digestive tract, which reduces the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Approximately one-third of your daily fiber intake should be from soluble fiber. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats, barley, beans, fruits like apricots, apples, and oranges, vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and kale, flax seeds, and fiber supplements such as psyllium.
Increased fiber intake promotes improved intestinal health and regularity. Your body is unable to digest and absorb fiber, like it does proteins and fats. As fiber works its way through the digestive tract, it is performing many tasks to keep your body healthy and functioning at its best. In the large intestine, fiber causes fermentation and promotes the growth of healthy bacteria, which helps the immune system to combat infection and chronic disease more effectively. Fiber also absorbs water in the intestine, which adds bulk to your stool to promote regularity.
Insoluble fiber is great for digestive health, and good sources include bran cereals, whole-grain breads, whole-wheat products, flax seeds, fibrous vegetables like beets, spinach, and green beans, and grainy fruits like blackberries and kiwi.
When attempting to lose weight, many people turn to popular low-carbohydrate diets, which may also be low in heart-healthy fiber. A high-fiber diet is a key component of weight loss and weight management, and an overall healthier lifestyle. As you increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, and grains, you naturally start to decrease your intake of fats and sugar. Consuming more fiber helps you to feel fuller longer, which means you will have less room for foods that are higher in fat, more calorie-dense, and lower in fiber. Other aspects of weight loss aside, just doubling up on your fiber intake could cut as much as 100 calories from your daily diet, which could prevent up to 10 pounds of yearly weight gain. Also, some research has shown that when losing weight, those who consume sufficient amounts of fiber not only feel less hungry, they also lose more weight.