Today we are going to have a great chat about SUCH A FUN TOPIC….okay…maybe I exaggerated A LITTLE! While there’s not much glamour in a topic such as fiber, it IS important for your health!
There are two types of fiber, soluble and insolube (soluble dissolves in water). When we eat fiber, it passes through our digestive tract, as our body does not necessarily break down the material in the same manner as it does, say, a protein. It is recommended by the American Heart Association for adults to get 25-30 grams of fiber per day. Studies, like this one, have shown fiber benefits time and time again. Legumes, certain whole grains, vegetables and fruits are the greatest sources of dietary fibers. Fiber is utilized more efficiently in the body when food is the source (supplements are recommended by doctors in some instances, but our bodies really crave the fiber from food!)
Now that we have the basic concepts of fiber down, here are a few of the benefits of fiber:
1.) Blood Sugar Assistance
Because fiber is not digested as other nutrients in the body, it leads to an environment in which sugars are more slowly broken down. Soluble fiber, in particular, becomes almost a syrup-like consistency when it is moving throughout the system. This thickness, in turn, helps slow down the rate of carbohydrate absorption( the building block of carbs is glucose, or other sugars). Several studies have shown that an increased fiber intake helps regulate blood sugar. In a recent metanalysis, or cumulative review of research, Psyllium fiber (a supplemental fiber source) was shown to have potential blood sugar maintenance benefits. Although food sources of fiber tend to be the most ideal sources of fiber, future studies may further show a correlation between various fiber supplementation doses/types and blood sugar maintenance.
2.) Weight Maintenance and/or Loss
Because fiber is “bulking” in a sense in relation to the intestines, a feeling of fullness can develop. Many studies have indicated that fiber affects satiety. In addition to this…a natural “side effect” of increasing fiber-rich fruits, veggies, and other sources of healthy fiber into meals, in theory, leaves less room for lower-nutrient, processed foods. (For the sake of your time spent reading this: I’m not factoring in emotional eating impulses, metabolic imbalances, etc….Also, if you are gluten intolerant, there are gluten-free whole grain options out there, such as quinoa!)
3.) Cholesterol Effects
While I do NOT recommend that you forego your medications after reading this post, it might be encouraging to you to know that some studies (such as this one), suggest that fiber sources have been linked to regulating cholesterol. Here’s the issue of debate: LDL cholesterol, for a long time, has been thought to be a “bad” cholesterol, while HDL is deemed “good cholesterol”. Many researches are currently trying to understand exactly what role LDL plays in relation to heart health, as opinions differ. Some say it does not matter the Total Cholesterol (HDL & LDL) quantity, it only matters what percent of LDL is oxidized (meaning it undergoes a chemical change that can alter its function) in the body. Other researchers belong to the camp of belief that LDL is neither good nor bad, but necessary, as they believe it serves as a messenger warning and red flag that something harmful may occur, or is occurring, in the body. While, yet, other studies have indicated that low LDL has been linked to health problems in certain studies. My personal thought is that each of these ideas can be correct, and how LDL represents itself depends on the genetic makeup and personal metabolic differences of the individuals studied…Time will tell! Currently, the recommendations in Western medicine are still under the protocol to keep LDL below a certain level, and of course, this protocol is based on other studies. (Your physician has likely guided you to what HDL and LDL numbers are preferred for your particular case!)
4.) Digestive Disorder Assistance
In a perfect world, our fiber intake would come from solely from foods. However, sometimes we are prescribed a fiber supplement. If you find yourself in this situation, I would like to share my experience. Because of my IBS, it was suggested that I find a supplement that contained the active ingredient called Psyllium Hydrophilic Mucilloid, or Psyllium husks….this is the same type of fiber I talked about earlier in the blood sugar maintenance section. I searched and searched and searched for a product that had ONLY this as the ingredient content instead of a ton of fillers (by itself it is gluten-free, for those who stay away from gluten). Although there are likely more companies that I do not have readily in my area (or I was just too lazy to continue the quest to find!), this was the first brand that I found that is sugar/sugar alternative- free because there is only the ONE ingredient! (And no, I’m not paid for this post!) .
I do find benefit in using this supplement. I’m sure it is carried by high-end brands in retail or health stores, but I actually found this at my everyday shopping center. It’s not the tastiest of things to eat, but I personally prefer the neutral taste of it to the sugary flavors of other similar supplements. I wanted to share this for any of you who, like me, end up with a recommendation to add a fiber supplement containing this ingredient. *Make sure you follow the instructions and drink the appropriate amount of water!
Do you have any favorite ways to incorporate more fiber into your diet? Share in the comments!
Overall benefits Study: James W Anderson, Pat Baird, Richard H Davis, Jr, Stefanie Ferreri, Mary Knudtson, Ashraf Koraym, Valerie Waters, Christine L Williams; Health benefits of dietary fiber. Nutr Rev 2009; 67 (4): 188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x. PubMed 25 April 2017.
Blood Sugar Section study: Gibb RD, Mcrorie JW, Russell DA, Hasselblad V, D’alessio DA. Psyllium fiber improves glycemic control proportional to loss of glycemic control: a meta-analysis of data in euglycemic subjects, patients at risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and patients being treated for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;102(6):1604–14. [PubMed]. 25 Apri 2017.
Cholesterol Section Study: Romero AL, Romero JE, Galaviz S, Fernandez ML. Cookies Enriched with Psyllium or Oat Bran Lower Plasma LDL Cholesterol in Normal and Hypercholesterolemic Men from Northern Mexico. J Am Coll Nutr. 1998;17:601–608. [PubMed] 25 April 2017.