Fiber: The Digestive Super Food
Most nutritionists agree, there is simply not enough fiber in the Western diet. Unfortunately, the majority of Americans most commonly eat foods associated with a Western diet. People who do not eat enough fiber are more likely to have trouble with constipation, hemorrhoids, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and obesity.
What Do We Need?
Adults should consume between 18 and 35 grams of fiber per day. Most of these grams of fiber come in the way of vegetables and fruit; however, people underestimate how much fiber whole grains can offer as well. For instance, good quality whole grain bread can have upwards of five grams of fiber per slice. Some types of cereal have a similar amount.
Types of Fiber
There are two forms of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both pass through the intestines undigested and both accomplish the same purpose; however, they are different in composition and how they react within the digestive system.
Soluble fiber becomes a gooey substance when it dissolves in water. Foods that have this gooey texture when they’re submerged in water indicate that they have soluble fiber, such as oatmeal. Other soluble fiber-rich foods include beans and fruit.
Soluble fiber is helpful in reducing cholesterol levels. Soluble fibers attach to cholesterol particles and carry them out of the body before they make their way into the circulatory system. This is what makes oatmeal healthy for the heart. It also helps prevent type 2 diabetes and keeps it manageable for those who already have type 2 diabetes.
Soluble fiber makes fecal matter softer and allows it to pass more easily. Insoluble fiber passes easily too, but it is drier in composition. Both forms of fiber help to ease hemorrhoids, as hemorrhoids can be caused by excessive straining while having a bowel movement.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Insoluble fiber is, basically, plant fibers that do not break down in the digestive tract. These plant fibers, in essence, clean the intestinal walls by gently scraping the walls of fecal matter buildup which makes fiber an excellent solution to avoid constipation. Insoluble fiber can be found in brown rice, rye, wheat and vegetables.
How Fiber Works
Both types of fiber work by reducing fecal, or mucoid, plaque in the intestines to help the body to better absorb nutrients from digested food. Blockage in the intestines can cause a higher amount of toxicity in the blood as well. Eating fiber helps to avoid this issue, which creates a greater amount of energy in the body, and clearer skin as well.
Fiber As a Carb
Nutrition labels do not list the type of fiber you’re eating. Both types of fiber are carbohydrates, but they aren’t broken down and absorbed by the bloodstream. Therefore, fiber doesn’t cause insulin spikes. This is the reason that protein diets tell people to count their “net carbohydrates” rather than their total carbohydrate intake; grams of fiber are subtracted from the total amount of carbohydrates to get the sum of net carbohydrates.
Remember: Just Add Water
It’s important to drink an adequate amount of water while having either soluble or insoluble fiber. Having either type of fiber without adequate water intake will not be beneficial. Soluble fiber bulks up in water, so water is needed in order for it to work.
Insoluble fiber does not absorb water, however, insoluble fiber traps water in its content and moves easier through the digestive system. It is recommended that a person drink 64 ounces of water, at least, while consuming the proper amount of fiber.