Fiber is one of the most important dietary nutrient that not only keeps you healthy, but may also help you live longer without disease. This has been found in recent study conducted by an Australian research team headed by Bamini Gopinath.
The findings of this study come as no surprise; but confirmation of holistic approach to eat more of plant based diet, mainly fresh fruits, vegetables, cereals, and legumes. Also, there are several other scientific studies confirming fiber’s protective influence against a host of diseases like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, colon cancer, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. (1)
What exactly is it about fiber that promotes health and longevity?
1. Favorably Alters the Intestinal Microflora & Permeability
There are trillions of bacteria in the gut. Some of these bacteria are friendly, others are not. The number and composition of these gut bacteria can greatly affect our health. If the number of pathogenic bacteria increases and the gut barrier function fails (leaky gut), then endotoxins from these pathogenic bacteria enter the bloodstream. When this happens, our immune system recognizes these foreign molecules and mounts an attack against them, resulting in a chronic inflammatory response. This diet-induced inflammation may trigger insulin resistance, leptin resistance, fatty liver disease, and has been strongly linked to many of the world’s most serious diseases.(2)
Research has shown that dietary fiber can address this problem. Some fibers act as Prebiotics. These fermentable fibers that are non-digestible substances, pass into intestines and provide favorable environment for the growth of good bacteria. It also improves gut barrier function (Intestinal Permeability) and reduces the number of potentially pathogenic bacteria.
2. Promotes a healthier bowel function
It is well recognized that fiber is important for normal laxation. Dietary fiber increases stool weight and softens it. Larger and softer stools increase the ease of defecation and reduce transit time through the intestinal tract, which may help to prevent or relieve constipation.[the_ad id=”878″]
3. Lowers cholesterol levels
Soluble fiber may help to lower total cholesterol levels, mainly by lowering the LDL-cholesterol or ‘bad’ cholesterol. Fiber appears to help bile acids which are made of cholesterol to pass through the intestine as waste. Thus, the body absorbs less dietary cholesterol.
4. Promotes satiety and weight loss and prevents obesity
High fiber foods requires a longer time for you to chew. This slows you down and may make you eat less. Besides, diets that are high in fiber are typically lower in fat and energy density, both of which are helpful for maintaining a healthy body weight.
5. Helps to control blood sugar level
Soluble fiber decrease the rate of release of glucose from digested food into the bloodstream. When glucose is released slowly, the insulin response is also gradual. Thus preventing a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. This helps people with type 2 diabetes maintain their blood sugar levels.
Do I need to Increase my fiber intake?
It is a well known fact that most Americans consume less than half of the recommended daily fiber intake. People aren’t eating enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, or legumes—the main sources of dietary fiber. Nearly the entire U.S. population (96%) fails to eat enough whole plant foods.
The minimum daily requirement of fiber 25 g per day for women and 38 g per day for men. On average, we get only about 15 grams a day; which is less than half the minimum.
Food vs. Supplements
For most people, It is best to get fiber from organic foods. You can get it easily from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. Besides fiber, whole food contains nutrients including antioxidants and other biological active components which can offer more protection against chronic diseases than fiber alone.
When increasing fiber intake, It’s best to boost fiber in your diet gradually and drink plenty of water, so your digestive system has time to adjust. Otherwise it may result in increased gas or flatulence.
However, its not easy or even possible for everyone to make such major changes to their diet. In such cases, one can start taking fiber supplements regularly until they make significant change to their routine diet. Below, we have listed some of the best fiber supplements available online:-
“All disease begins in the gut.” Hippocrates and holistic medicine practitioners said this thousands of years ago, but we are only just starting to discover how right they were. Obviously, not all diseases begin in the gut. For example, this does not apply to genetic diseases. But, there is evidence that many chronic metabolic diseases do, in fact, begin in the gut. It is therefore very important to take good care of our intestines. Be very selective about what we eat and drink, making sure that we get lots of natural dietary fiber, vitamins and antioxidants along with moderate amount of proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrates. This is key to healthy, disease free aging.