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Fiber Basics: What Is It & Why Is It So Important for Health?

Riddle time! Here are your hints: It is not digestible by the body, yet hardly anyone eats enough of it. It is calorie-free, yet it will make you feel satiated. It is hugely important for everything from digestion to heart health, blood sugar regulation, and beyond. Anyone? 

It’s Fiber!

Don’t just take my word for it. A recent review examining the data on fiber (which included 4,635 adults from 185 studies) found that people who consumed over 25 grams of fiber per day significantly decreased their risk of developing multiple chronic ailments, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and colon cancer. That is great news—but the not-so-great news? Most people are getting around 12 grams of fiber—or less—per day. Yikes. Let’s talk about the basics of fiber, what makes it so important, and ways you can get more of it in your life!

What is fiber, really?

Most of the carbohydrates we eat are broken down into glucose by our bodies and used as energy for our cells. Fiber, on the other hand, is the exception to this rule. It cannot be broken down into glucose but, instead, moves through your body undigested. Once fiber reaches your colon, your gut bacteria begin to it down, resulting in the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which have countless positive health impacts—from reduced inflammation and lower cancer risk to improved intestinal barrier function. 

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Let’s talk about the differences between soluble and insoluble fibers and why you want to ensure you get plenty of both. 

Soluble fiber

Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in water and is essential for capturing and removing toxins within your digestive system. It slows the digestive process, which helps prevent unwanted spikes in blood sugar. This, in turn, evens out your insulin levels—which is one reason why it has a protective effect against diabetes. Soluble fiber has also been found to lower cholesterol and prevent the absorption of fats, making it an excellent nutrient for heart health. When looking to increase your intake of soluble fiber, think oats, seeds, legumes, and fruits!

Insoluble fiber

Insoluble fiber is what adds bulk to your stool. Opposite to soluble fiber, insoluble fiber speeds up digestion, helping food pass more quickly through your system. It also pulls water into the stool—which is especially ideal for those who struggle with constipation—but also reduces your risk of all kinds of digestive ailments, from hemorrhoids to diverticulitis and even colon cancer. When looking for foods that contain insoluble fiber, think vegetables, berries, nuts, and whole grains.

A word on fiber supplements

When you hear those studies talking about the benefits of a high fiber diet—they aren’t talking about fiber that comes from capsules, powders, or any other isolated fiber form. They are talking about real, whole foods. The truth is—isolated fiber is not only fake and processed—but it can actually do more harm than good. Fiber supplements are dehydrating, can throw off your gut flora, and are stripped of natural nutrients. The best way to increase your fiber intake is to increase your consumption of fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Your gut health will thank you!

***

The benefits of a high-fiber diet seem to grow every day. It is the nutrient that helps you resist illness, increases energy, improves gut health, brightens mood and skin, and so much more. I truly can’t overstate how important it is for your health—in fact; I challenge my clients to aim for 35-40 grams per day! If you’re struggling to get enough fiber in your diet, I recommend trying out my delivered S.O.U.P. Cleanse. It includes numerous plant foods containing tons of fiber and is designed with optimum gut health in mind. Happy Cleansing!

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