Focus on Fiber

“Fiber is good for you.” “Fiber improves your cholesterol.” “Eat more fiber!” We’ve all heard or read these statements many times, but many of us may not know exactly what fiber is, how it benefits our body, or where to find it! This article will provide some baseline knowledge on Fiber to help you make healthy decisions for your body.

Dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate known as a polysaccharide. It can be classified into two categories based on their structure and functions in the body.

Soluble fiber

Soluble fiber is water soluble, meaning it dissolves in water and turns into a gel. Soluble fiber is found in a variety of foods such as:

  • Oats

  • Dried Beans

  • Chia Seeds

  • Flax

  • Nuts

  • Apples

  • Blueberries

  • Bananas

  • Oranges

  • Carrots

  • Tomatoes

A diet rich in soluble fiber can decrease serum (blood) cholesterol levels by decreasing enterohepatic recycling of bile acids. Our bodies dispose of excess cholesterol through the intestines. Without adequate soluble fiber, this cholesterol will be reabsorbed (recycled) back into the bloodstream. With adequate insoluble fiber, this cholesterol is pushed along and disposed of resulting in a decrease in serum cholesterol

A diet rich in soluble fiber helps to decrease serum (blood) cholesterol levels by improving the efficiency of our bodies’ enterohepatic system, the system which helps recycle or dispose of bile, bile salts, and other fluids produced by the liver and absorbed, or passed through, the intestines. Cholesterol is a lipoprotein that helps carry fatty acids through the bloodstream, and when too abundant, can lead to plaque build up along arterial surfaces. Soluble fiber slows down the movement of food through the intestines and helps to interfere with the body’s reuptake of the cholesterol containing bile salts, ensuring that they pass through the digestive system. Since cholesterol is used to create bile salts, the body responds to an increase in soluble fiber levels by creating more cholesterol receptors which will pull more cholesterol out of the blood stream, continue this cycle, and reduce overall blood cholesterol levels.

Insoluble fiber

Insoluble fiber is found in the structures that make up the tough cell walls of plants. Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as…

  • Root Vegetables

  • Dark Leafy Greens

  • Celery

  • Vegetable Skins

  • Fruit Skins

  • Seeds

  • Nuts

Insoluble fiber helps to add bulk to stools which ensures regular bowel movements. As insoluble fiber cannot be absorbed by the body, the intestines will work to move insoluble fiber containing digested foods through the bowels much quicker in order to make room for foods that contain compounds that can be broken down and used as nutrients.

Fiber can help us:

  • Improve overall gut health

  • Lower risk of colon cancer

  • Lower serum cholesterol

  • Keep bowel movements regular

  • Lose weight

How much Fiber?

The national fiber recommendations are 25g/day for women and 30-38g/day for men.

Summary

Eating enough fiber is important for overall health and disease prevention.

Get your fiber by eating a diet rich in whole food sources such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, seeds and

whole grains. Whole food source provide micronutrients, phytochemicals and water.

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