Fiber 101: Health benefits

CHICOPEE, Mass. (Mass Appeal) – You’ve heard of fiber, but what is it exactly and why is it important to our health? 22News Registered Dietitian Nancy Dell shared more about the health benefits of fiber.

Fiber 101: Health Benefits

What is Fiber?
Fiber is the part of food that does not get digested so it literally goes in one end and out the other. Along the way it does many good things for us…which we will get to in a moment. The FDA says Americans should eat between 20 and 30 grams of fiber a day. Some experts say as much as 40 grams is better. But most adults don’t even eat half that much (about 15g) since fiber is often processed out in many foods Americans eat like bread, pasta, and chips. Also remember too much is a problem. If 40 g is good, it does not mean 100 grams is better.

Benefits of Fiber

Blood sugar control: Soluble fiber, which dissolves into a a gel like texture, may help to slow your body’s breakdown of carbohydrates and the absorption of sugar, helping with blood sugar control.

Heart health: The more fiber someone eats, the less likely they are to have a heart attack, and research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease.

Stroke: Researchers have found that for every seven-grams more fiber you consume on a daily basis, your stroke risk is decreased by 7 percent.

Weight loss and management: Fiber has been shown to enhance weight loss among obese people, likely because fiber increases feelings of fullness. It also pull excess estrogen out of the body. Excess estrogen from the plastic containers and from hormones fed to fatten up animals get into our bodies and stimulate fat storage.

Skin health: Fiber, particularly psyllium husk, may help move yeast and fungus out of your body, preventing them from being excreted through your skin where they could trigger acne or rashes.

Diverticulitis: Dietary fiber (especially insoluble which does not dissolve but adds bulk to your stool and helps elimination) may reduce your risk of diverticulitis – an inflammation of polyps in your intestine – by 40 percent.

Hemorrhoids: A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of hemorrhoids.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Fiber may provide some relief from IBS.

Feeds probiotics: Some of these benefits come because the healthy bacteria in our gut feeds on the fiber we eat. Those probiotics in turn help control BS, wt, cholesterol.

Should everyone eat up to 40 g fiber for these health benefits?
Yes, if you currently have a generally healthy GI. But if you have an unhealthy gut with diarrhea, gas, stomach pains and reflux, you may have too many bad bacteria in your gut. They eat fiber too.You may need to eat low fiber then add in foods rich in probiotics like yogurt or a probiotic supplement. Then gradually increase your fiber with mostly whole vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.

So we can just look at labels and add up the fiber in our foods?.
No. All fibers are not created equal. We have the fiber that is “intact fiber” – that means it is in the food exactly as it is found in nature…nuts , beans, vegetables, and fruits. This is the best fiber. 100% whole grains also have fiber but with fewer nutrients than fruits and veggies, nuts and beans.

Many whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, naturally contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. If we process that food to make bread and pasta and even smoothies, the fiber is no longer intact but it still is naturally occurring and can have some benefits…just not as good as intact. Third is added fiber. Fiber is added to everything now…bread with 6x the fiber of whole wheat , fiber added to splenda. This fiber is very processed and may not have the health benefits…yet the label looks good since it may say 10 grams of fiber. Try to get fiber intact.

Look at the label for fiber content but also look at ingredients to see if the fiber is added. Ask your self, is this food and fiber found in nature or processed. Aim for 30-40 grams eventually.

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