Importance of Fiber in Your Diet

Hold the Fibers, Please!

We've all heard that we should incorporate more fiber into our diets, but do we really know why? Dietary fiber is best known for its ability to prevent and relieve constipation, but there are many other health benefits that come with fiber. Read on to discover the many health benefits of fiber.

First, you must understand what exactly fiber is. Also known as roughage or bulk, fiber includes all the parts of a plant food that your body cannot digest or absorb. Unlike fats, proteins or carbs, fiber is not digested. It is instead passed relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, colon and out of your body. Not only does fiber assist with healthy bowel movements, but it also helps you maintain a healthy weight and lowers your risk of heart disease.

>> Read more: Fiber Face Off: High-Fiber Snacks

Dietary fiber is classified as either soluble fiber or insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material in your body, and it can lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. It's found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium. The other type of dietary fiber, insoluble fiber, promotes movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk so it can help with constipation or irregular stools. Insoluble fiber can be found in whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and veggies like cauliflower, green beans and potatoes.

BBQ Turkey Meatloaf Cups with Mashed Cauliflower image of cauliflower before being mashed and cooked in pan

Fiber normalizes your bowel movements, which makes your stool easier to pass and assists in a faster, more regular metabolism. Fiber also helps you maintain bowel health by lowering the risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon, which are harmful to bowel health. But that's not all fiber does! It can even help lower cholesterol! Soluble fiber lowers your low-density lipoprotein (LPL) levels, or "bad" levels, of cholesterol. Plus, it lowers your blood pressure and inflammation, all of which combine for healthy cholesterol levels.

Fiber also controls your blood sugar levels, because soluble fiber slows the absorption rate of sugar, which in turn improves your blood sugar levels. This is especially good news for those with diabetes.

If you eat a lot of fiber in your diet, you might notice that it's a little easier to achieve a healthy weight. That's because foods rich in fiber generally require more chewing time, which means that your stomach has more time to tell if it's full or still hungry between bites. It also makes your meals feel larger and last longer! Fiber-rich foods are less energy dense, which means they contain fewer calories for the same amount of of high-energy dense foods.

Source: Mayo Clinic