Why do we need fiber? Simply put, there are five main reasons that it is useful:
- Fiber helps to normalize bowel movements.
- With its bulk, it also helps maintain bowel health by cleaning out the intestines.
- Research is being conducted that suggests it is a factor in reducing colon cancer.
- Fiber lowers bad cholesterol levels and controls blood sugar levels by slowing the rate of sugar absorption.
- It aids in achieving a healthy weight.
As stated previously, it is bulky — especially after absorbing water — and makes a person feel more full. To give a real life example, think about eating mac and cheese for supper, compared to a serving of broccoli and chicken. Which one keeps you fuller longer?
There are two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble. As you can probably guess, soluble fiber dissolves in water and insoluble does not. The latter of the two is the kind that is most beneficial to your digestive system. It is found in the vegetables, whole grains, beans, and some of the starches that you hopefully eat on a daily basis.
The recommended daily intake for women is 25 grams; for men it is higher at 38 grams. Eating the recommended amounts of food groups will easily put you at an adequate fiber intake.
Having a high fiber diet is a healthy habit well worth having. It supports the digestive system to move food through the intestines and prevents constipation.
However, with a high fiber diet it is important to drink lots of water. Without enough fluids, it makes it hard for the food to move through and can make you feel very uncomfortable or ill, potentially giving you a large amount of gas, bloating or cramping.
Though fiber is beneficial for health, don’t go over board and eat an irrational amount. This is especially true if you don’t typically consume much fiber. Allow your body time to adjust as you gradually increase your fiber intake.
Remember: as always, moderation is the key.