For centuries, fiber has been recognized as a super-nutrient. But what exactly is fiber and why is it an essential part of a healthy diet?
Fiber is made up from the indigestible parts of plants, e.g. gums, waxes, pectins, mucilage, cellulose, lignins, or oligosaccharides. In a nutshell, it is the closest thing we have to a true superfood because as fiber passes through our digestive tract, it undergoes fermentation, which provides many health benefits.
A fiber-rich diet is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, certain gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, and metabolic dysfunctions, including prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, and colorectal, gastric as well as breast cancers. In addition, fiber is associated with digestive benefits, such as increased stool bulk, decreased transit time, and fermentation by colonic microflora.
Other Health Benefits of Fiber
There are two main types of fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber includes cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignins, which do not dissolve in water. Examples of soluble fiber include gums, pectin, and mucilage, which combine with water to form a gel-like texture in the intestines. Since soluble fibers are more fermentable they provide more beneficial byproducts. Insoluble fibers, on the other hand, are great bulking agents that improve the mechanics of elimination and help prevent constipation.
Other health benefits of fiber include:
It increases fecal bulk
It decreases transit time
It supports healthy blood sugar by slowing its absorption into the bloodstream
It decreases cholesterol by decreasing its absorption and enhancing its elimination
And, what is emerging to be one of its most important functions – it interacts positively with the gut flora.
Recommended Fiber Intake
Currently, the Institute of Medicine recommends 25-30 grams of fiber daily. The average US adult intake is 16 grams.
What Are Good Sources of Fiber?
Whole grains, vegetables, and some fruits are good sources of insoluble fiber, while soluble fiber is predominantly found in beans, peas, lentils, apples, and oats. Here are the average amounts of fiber found in common foods:
1 cup cooked black beans – 17 grams
1 cup cooked lentils – 16 grams
1 cup cooked garbanzo or pinto beans – 14.7 grams
1 cup cooked lima beans - 13.2 grams
2 tablespoons chia seeds – 10 grams
1 cup guava – 9 grams
1 cup collard greens – 8 grams
1 cup raspberries – 8 grams
1 cup butternut squash – 7 grams
1 cup blackberries – 7 grams
¼ cup almonds – 7 grams
1 cup oatmeal – 5 grams
1 cup barley – 5 grams
1 apple with skin - 3.7 grams
1 medium banana - 2.7 grams
5 Sneaky Ways You Can Add More Fiber to Your Diet
Studies show that while people are aware of the health benefits of fiber, many believe they consume enough despite evidence to the contrary. If you are interested in adding more fiber to your diet, try this:
1. Start the day right. Choose a high-fiber breakfast cereal or oatmeal for breakfast. High-fiber cereals include Raisin Bran (8.2 grams per cup), All-Bran (10 grams per cup), Bran Buds (12 grams per cup), and Fiber One (13 grams).
2. Switch to whole grains. Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Look for breads that list whole wheat, whole-wheat flour, or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label and have at least 2 grams of dietary fiber a serving. Experiment with brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta, and bulgur wheat.
3. Lean on legumes. Beans, peas, and lentils are excellent sources of fiber. Add kidney beans to canned soup or a green salad. Or make nachos with refried black beans, lots of fresh veggies, whole-wheat tortilla chips and salsa.
4. Eat more fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals. Try to eat five or more servings daily.
5. Make snacks count. Fresh fruits, raw vegetables, low-fat popcorn, and whole-grain crackers are all good choices. A handful of nuts or dried fruits also is a healthy, high-fiber snack — although be aware that nuts and dried fruits are high in calories.
If, after implementing these tips, you still struggle to eat a fiber-rich diet, try our Thorne FiberMend supplement. FiberMend combines Sunfiber, a partially hydrolyzed guar gum fiber, with rice bran, larch arabinogalactan, apple pectin, and green tea phytosome in a water-soluble blend. Because Sunfiber doesn’t have any flavor, it can be added to any other foods or beverages and provides is an easy way to increase your fiber intake.