Everyone has heard that they need to eat fiber, but few people really know what it is and why it is so important. Fiber is a form of carbohydrate along with sugars and starches. Unlike sugars and starch fiber cannot be used for energy because it cannot be broken down into sugar. Starch and sugars both end us as blood sugar aka glucose.
Starches are simply multiple units of sugar hooked together, and we have enzymes that break them apart so we can use the sugar for fuel. Fiber is also multiple units of sugar hooked together, but humans lack the enzymes necessary to break it down into sugars so it is not absorbed. This is very important when thinking about carbohydrate containing foods because they are NOT all the same.
For example, a glass of fruit juice is essentially a glass of sugar water with some beneficial plant chemicals and in many cases a nice dose of vitamin C. It can dramatically boost blood sugar, and if you consume too much it can definitely drive weight gain. While a large serving of brocolli is mostly fiber with little sugar and starch and is also chock full of beneficial plant chemicals, but with almost no effect on blood sugar!
There are two main types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Ideally you want to eat both. There is also a third type of fiber called “Digestive Resistant Starch” (see https://workoutanytime.blogspot.com/2017/10/digestion-resistant-starch-all-starch.html)
Soluble fiber, found in foods such as cucumbers, blueberries, and beans, has a gel-like consistency and slows down your digestion. This helps with satiety (feeling satisfied). It also slows the break down and absorption of cholesterol and other nutrients like starches and sugar which can help lower cholesterol and control blood sugar. Some foods with soluble fiber also help feed the good bacteria in your digestive tract.
Insoluble fiberis found in foods like green, leafy veggies, green beans, and celery. It does not dissolve to a gel and stays intact as it moves through your colon. By adding bulk, it helps food move more quickly through your digestive tract reducing transit time. Insoluble Fiber is sometimes referred to as “roughage”, and it along with soluble fiber can help with constipation.
Benefits of High Fiber Intake
Fiber intake is very important for keeping blood sugar levels under control, and studies have shown that people who take in at least 26 grams of fiber per day had a much lower risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
There is also an inverse relationship between fiber intake and heart attack, with research showing that people eating a high fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease. High fiber diets may also help lower blood pressure.
Another interesting research finding about fiber is that for every 7 grams of fiber you consume each day your stroke risk is decreased 7 percent. To put this into perspective this equates to about 2 servings of fruits and vegetables.
Fiber, and psyllium in particular, can help move yeasts and fungus out of your digestive system which may help prevent them from triggering acne and rashes.
Fiber can also provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome in many people.
Fiber intake may also help reduce the risk of gallstones
and kidney stones probably through its action in controlling blood sugar.
Sources of Fiber
Contrary to popular opinion grains are probably not your best source of fiber. Unfortunately, non-organic grains are chock full of glyphosate which is pesticide banned in most other countries outside the US because they have no allegiance to Monsanto who produces it.
A high grain diet promotes insulin and leptin resistance thereby increasing your risk for Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease and Cancer.
Better choices of fiber includes Organic Whole Husk Psyllium. If you use this supplement it is critical to get organic psyllium as non-organic psyllium is heavily sprayed with chemicals. Other great sources include chia seeds, berries, root vegetables such as sweet potato, peas and beans, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and celery.
How much fiber?
Experts recommend that woman eat a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day and men consume 38 grams per day. However higher intakes may be more beneficial.
It is important to SLOWLY increase your fiber intake and keep your water intake high to prevent potential issues caused by eating fiber without sufficient fluid.
There are circumstances where high fiber intake is contraindicated and timing for fiber intake relative to drugs and supplements is important. People with chronic digestive issues may need to remove fiber for some period of time because fiber feeds the bacteria in your gut. Although as a general rule this is highly beneficial there are circumstances where high fiber intake can feed the wrong microorganisms such as pathogenic bacteria.
Fiber can also bind certain medications and minerals dramatically reducing their absorption so many drugs and mineral supplements should not be taken at the same time as fiber.