You know what fiber is… It’s that stuff in vegetables, right? But do you know how it works? Studies have recently shown that diets high in fiber can actually reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, not to mention help you lose weight. Not bad for a… thing in a vegetable.
What is Fiber?
Believe it or not, fiber is actually an indigestible nutrient that comes from plants, meaning that your digestive system can’t quite break down and use all of it.
It is made of two different parts: soluble and insoluble fibers. Soluble fiber dissolves easily in water, while insoluble fiber does not. This might sound unhealthy, but the fact that fiber can’t be digested is what makes it so healthy. Because it can’t be broken down, it doesn’t lump together with other food and passes quickly through the intestines.
Fiber and Digestion
Some of the greatest benefits of fiber come from the role it plays in the digestive process. EHealthMD.com explains that fiber is beneficial because:
· It forces you to chew for much longer, slowing down the process of digestion. This leads to your brain realizing that you are full sooner, meaning that you eat fewer calories.
· It gives you a “bigger bang for your buck.” Since it can’t be digested, fiber is a bulky nutrient that takes up more space in your stomach than it probably should. This means, again, that you feel full sooner.
· When you eat foods that have a high glycemic index, fiber actually slows down the absorption so that your body feels like it is receiving a complex carb. This keeps blood levels from crashing so that you don’t crave food.
· When fiber is passing through the intestines, it ferments, creating organic acids that help to keep the lining of the colon healthy.
· This acid also helps to keep the liver healthy and the metabolism high.
Fiber and Weight Loss
According to WebMD people eat roughly the same weight of food every single day. When you combine a high-fiber diet with adequate hydration, you will eat the same weight but fewer calories, which will result in weight loss without feeling hungry.
In a 2009 study published in Appetite, researchers found that participants who ate fibrous diets consumed 15% fewer calories than those who did not. Over time, this relatively small 15% of calories will result in huge amounts of weight lost.
How to Get More Fiber
You can increase your fiber by eating more foods that come from plants. Adding more vegetables and fruits will definitely up your fiber intake, since that is where it originates.
You can also add functional fiber to your diet. This can be in the form of fiber-fortified foods or even fiber powders. Whatever choice you make, increasing your fiber (if you aren’t getting enough) is a great choice that will pay off around your waist line.
A Word of Caution
Eating too much fiber can actually be a bad thing. Fiber can act as a laxative, which will dehydrate you and have you running for the bathroom. To avoid these uncomfortable issues, make sure to take the amount recommended, but not more.