The 411 On Healthy Digestion

Healthy Digestion

Discover 10 benefits of eating good-for-you fiber and seven high-fiber foods to work into your diet.

Have you eaten enough fiber today? The average person eats as little as 13 grams per day, which is just half the recommended amount. The standard American diet processed foods, excess fat and sugar, and few fruits and vegetables is the main culprit behind this deficiency.

Fiber is a powerful disease preventer and helps keep your digestive system and entire body functioning properly. Blood sugar, heart health, weight, skin all of these are impacted by how much fiber you eat. But before we explore the benefits, lets start with the fiber basics.

The 411 on fiber

Fiber is a plant material the body can’t digest. The nutrient has a number of functions: It bulks up stool; improves the muscular action of the gut wall to maintain regularity; and binds fats like cholesterol, triglycerides and hormones (such as estrogen), as well as toxins that are excreted by the liver, to be eliminated with stool.

There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber helps slow digestion and is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber helps add bulk to stool and helps food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines; its found in wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains. It’s necessary to eat plenty of both types to make sure you’re getting the full benefits of the nutrient.

The many benefits of fiber

While fiber is normally associated with digestive health, it also provides numerous benefits throughout the body. Here are 10 reasons fiber is good for you:

Blood sugar control – Soluble fiber can help slow the absorption of sugar and support healthy blood sugar levels. According to the Mayo Clinic, a diet high in insoluble fiber may even reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Heart health – One study published in the scientific journal JAMA found that eating a high-fiber diet may help prevent heart disease. This may be in part because fiber binds to cholesterol, which may help lower cholesterol levels. Other studies have shown that fiber may reduce blood pressure and inflammation.

Stroke – Exciting findings published in the American Heart Association journal Strokeshowed that dietary fiber may reduce the risk of a first stroke by 7 percent. Previous research suggests fiber reduces the risk factors associated with stroke, such as high blood pressure and LDL bad cholesterol.

Weight management – Fiber increases the feeling of fullness, which may help people lose or manage weight. Additionally, foods high in fiber tend to be healthier, so increasing fiber intake may promote a balanced diet and a healthy weight.

Gallstones and kidney stones – A high-fiber diet can decrease the risk of developing painful gallstones and kidney stones. Increasing fiber intake can help regulate blood sugar, which may decrease the risk of insulin spikes that can lead to the formation of stones.

Skin health – Fiber, especially the soluble fiber found in psyllium husks, can latch onto the toxic byproducts of yeast and fungus; this prevents the substances from being excreted from the skin and potentially causing a rash or acne. In the colon, fiber keeps the liver from reabsorbing pathogens, helping avoid a number of skin conditions.

Bowel health – Fiber benefits the bowel in a number of ways, including potentially relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Insoluble fiber may also significantly reduce the risk of developing diverticulitis – small sacs that form in the intestines and become inflamed or infected – according to research published in The Journal of Nutrition.

Gut microflora balance (prebiotic function) Prebiotic fiber, found in sources like bananas, berries, beans and chicory root, support the balance of healthy bacteria. These healthy bacteria strengthen the bowel wall, increase mineral absorption and support regulation of hormone production.

Colorectal cancer – High amounts of dietary fiber may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, according to a research review published in the medical journal BMJ. The researchers found that cereals and whole grains, in particular, seemed to provide the most benefit.

Hemorrhoids – Eating a diet high in fiber may reduce the risk of hemorrhoids. Increasing fiber consumption may also help reduce hemorrhoid symptoms by loosening stool, which makes it easier to pass, and may also reduce inflammation, bleeding and enlargement of hemorrhoids.

7 high-fiber foods to add to your diet

If you want to add more fiber, here are seven foods to add to your balanced diet:
Chia seeds
Berries
Almonds
Beans
Sweet potatoes
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Getting more

Looking to up your fiber intake? Instead of focusing solely on whole grains as a fiber source, aim to eat more vegetables, nuts and seeds. These healthy options have fiber and nutrients, including antioxidants, minerals and phytochemicals. Start by eating three to four additional one-half cup servings of fruits or vegetables daily.

Kelli B 💻

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