Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals that we need every day, but they also have something else we all need- fiber! Fiber is important for keeping your digestive system healthy, and can also be food for the beneficial bacterial that live in our gut.
While it may be odd to think about bacteria living in our intestines, these bacteria can actually be very good for us! These bacteria can break down fiber and make short chain fatty acids, and these fatty acids then serve as fuel for the cells that make up our large intestine and keep them healthy.
Fiber also helps keep your gut healthy in other ways. Low fiber diets are linked to an increase in constipation, diverticula, and colon cancer. Eating fiber can help bulk up stool and keep things moving through your digestive tract, make passing stool easier, and keeps the colon healthy to lower risk for colon cancer.
Blood Sugar and Hunger
Fiber can help lower the risk of diabetes, or if you have diabetes having fiber with your meals can help keep your blood sugar lower. Fiber slows down the movement of food from your stomach to your intestines, so it slows down the release of sugar into the bloodstream, and can keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer! This full feeling that fiber can give is also useful in maintaining weight or losing weight. It can be hard not to reach for a snack or another meal when we feel hungry, but fiber can help keep hunger at bay by keeping you feeling full.
Fiber can also lower your cholesterol levels. Your body produces a substance called bile to help break down fat, and bile is made from cholesterol. Normally our bodies are very good at recycling bile so we don’t have to make more, but fiber absorbs bile and traps it so your body can’t recycle it. This means your body has to make more, and because it is made from cholesterol your body takes cholesterol out of your blood to make more bile and lowers your cholesterol. In this way, fiber has been shown to help reduce the risk for heart disease!
How Much Fiber?
Men should aim for 38 grams of fiber every day, and women should aim for 25 grams. As mentioned, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are all excellent sources of fiber! To get all your fiber in spread fiber rich foods throughout your day, and the total can really add up! Try to make sure you have a fruit serving every day, eat non-starchy vegetables with lunch and dinner, and choose whole grains when you can. Here are some examples of some fiber rich foods and how much fiber is in them!
-Cat, Dietetic Intern