What is Dietary Fiber?
Dietary fiber is naturally occurring in all types of plant foods that your body alone cannot digest. While foods such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are broken down and absorbed, fiber is passed through your intestines, stomach, and colon all while staying relatively intact.
Why Do We Need Fiber?
Fiber is needed because it helps stool and waste move through the digestive tract. Since fiber filled foods aren’t absorbed or digested, it’s actually beneficial that they stay intact to help move stool and other potentially harmful ingredients out of your colon quickly.
Different Types of Fiber:
There are two different types of fiber: insoluble and soluble.
Insoluble fibers are considered “gut-healthy” fibers because they promote a laxative-like effect, and generally provide aid in constipation. This type of fiber does not dissolve in water and passes through the gastrointestinal tract intact, in order to quickly and sufficiently rid your colon of food and waste.
What is a Gastrointestinal Tract?
Your gastrointestinal tract, a.k.a. your G.I. tract, is the organ system responsible for consuming, digesting, absorbing nutrients, and ridding your body of unwanted waste. It includes your stomach, colon, small intestine, large intestine, appendix, cecum, and rectum.
Sources of Insoluble Fiber:
- Whole Wheat/Grains
- Brown Rice
Soluble fibers are fibers that attract water. Once absorbed, these fibers create a gel-like substance that slows down digestion. But wait- isn’t slow digestion a bad thing? Not necessarily. A slower digestion process results in feeling fuller longer, which can aid in weight loss and prevent overeating.
Sources of Soluble Fiber:
Benefits of Fiber:
There are loads of benefits to consuming fiber in the right amounts! Fiber…
- Regulates bowel movements
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Helps promote bowel and colon health
- Helps maintain a healthy blood sugar
- Aids in maintaining a healthy weight
How Much Fiber Should I Consume?
According to the 2005 American Dietary Guidelines For Americans, women under 50 should consume anywhere around 25 grams of fiber per day. The guidelines also recommend that males under 50 should consume anywhere from 30-80 grams of dietary fiber per day.
Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Fiber?
Yes, indeed! Just like everything consumed, moderation is key. Too much fiber, or a drastic increase in fiber intake can result in…
- Gas/Bloating- gas occurs due to the natural bacteria located in your digestive tract, and how it reacts to the amount of fiber consumed. To avoid bloating and gas, try increasing your fiber intake slowly.
- Cramping/Diarrhea- if too much fiber is consumed in a short amount of time, your body can react badly. Since fiber increases the speed in which food is digested, the more fiber consumed at a faster pace, the faster the food will be digested, which can result in stomach cramps and diarrhea.
- Malabsorption– by eating too much fiber, you may be interrupting your body’s natural absorption process. This can result in a lack of absorption of important vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
- Constipation– eating an increased amount of fiber without an increased amount of hydration can cause constipation. If you do plan on increasing your fiber intake, make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids.
- Intestinal Blockage– once again, caused by a large amount of fiber being consumed, without a large amount of water being consumed as well. An intestinal blockage is a serious health issue that causes a blockage in the intestine that doesn’t let any other food pass through.