We may already know that getting enough fiber in the diet keeps the digestive system healthy. But how much should we be ingesting every day? What are the best sources? What will happen if we don’t get enough? If we get too much? To answer all these questions, why don’t we take a brief look at what fiber does for our bodies.
There are two main kinds of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. There are benefits to both of these types. Soluble fiber absorbs water and has a thicker, gel-like consistency, and is usually found in foods like oats, whole grains, beans, berries, plums, and other soft fruits and vegetables. The soluble fiber helps to get rid of extra cholesterol in our bodies and clears plaque from the blood vessels to maintain a steady circulation. This is why oatmeal is considered a heart healthy breakfast!
In contrast, insoluble fiber is much tougher, and absorbs water less efficiently compared to soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber helps to cleanse out the digestive system and maintain a healthy gut. You can find insoluble fiber from the skins, husks, and peels of plant-based foods, such as seeds, nuts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Some great examples include brown rice, whole wheat bread, pumpkin seeds, celery, nectarines, avocados, and fresh apples.
Fiber is considered a carbohydrate, but the body lacks the ability to break it down into usable energy, so it doesn’t affect your blood sugar. This means that, not only does fiber lack calories, but it helps to speed up metabolism, regulate the digestive tract, lower risk of disease, and avoid irregular energy levels.
The current recommendation for daily fiber intake is about 25-30 g based upon a 2,000 calorie diet. You might also choose to follow the daily guidelines of 30-38 g for the average healthy man and 21-25 g for the average healthy woman. Going above or below this amount could lead to problems such as upset stomach, nausea, bloating, cramps, or irritation so be sure to nail it just right! Balancing out your calories with plenty of fiber and fluids will keep your gut active and strong!