The Importance of Fiber
Fiber is one of the most under-consumed nutrients in the diet. In fact, the average Canadian only consumes roughly 15 grams of fiber a day when the current dietary recommendations state that we should be consuming between 25-40 grams of fiber a day. Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate source that can be divided into two different categories; soluble and insoluble. What are the health benefits associated with fiber intake?
What Does Fiber Do?
Fiber can play a huge role in human digestive health. As fiber passes through the digestive tract it absorbs water. This ensures that you are not troubled with diarrhea or constipation. Not only does fiber aid in the proper digestion of foods, but it is also considered to be a prebiotic meaning that it can be used to feed the healthy bacteria in the gut. Our digestive system is full of bacteria, some good and some bad. Having a higher rate of “bad” bacteria has been associated with many poor indicators of health. Having enough fiber in your diet can ensure that you are feeding those “good” bacteria thus improving overall health.
Foods that are high in fiber also tend to be lower in sugar which we know can be very beneficial for many reasons. Additionally, high-fiber foods are also high in essential vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. Most Canadians are also deficient in these areas of nutrition, thus offering another reason to consider increasing your fiber intake.
Research has indicated that fiber closely relates to heart health as well. Fiber can actually lower cholesterol, which can be extremely useful for someone working to combat cardiovascular disease. Fiber can also reduce blood glucose and subsequently insulin levels. This may be essential for those who have diabetes. Finally, there is also a decent amount of research indicating that poor gut health is associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Feeding those good bacteria is important!
Even if you are not suffering from any pathological conditions, it is likely that you can still benefit from increasing your fiber intake. Even outside of general health, fiber can help improve feelings of fullness (satiety), which can be useful for those individuals who are restricting calories in an attempt to lose weight. While it is important to consume enough fiber, remember that consuming too much fiber can lead to adverse side effects as well. Monitor your daily fiber intake to ensure that you are getting enough but not getting too much!