Fiber In Your Diet: Big Benefits
If you read about health online, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about fiber in your diet lately. Although adding fiber to your diet certainly isn’t new as far as health and fitness go, it’s become trendy in the diet and weight loss world recently, and we can see why. The health benefits of fiber are numerous, and several of them are turning out to be even more influential on your health than we used to think!
We’ll take a look at the biggest benefits fiber can offer you, and how you can get more of it into your everyday diet.
But First: What is Fiber?
So you’ve heard about it, but what exactly is it?
By definition, fiber is just a thread or skein that forms a vegetable or other material. A thread in your shirt is a fiber! But when we talk about fiber in our diets, we’re talking about a carbohydrate called dietary fiber, also called “roughage,” which is the stuff you eat that resists your body’s efforts to digest it. Examples are bran, broccoli, oatmeal, and cabbage, among many others.
That might sound bad. Don’t you want to digest all of your food? As it turns out, no way. Your body needs some amount of indigestible material to maintain its healthy function, especially its healthy digestive function. Women need at least 25g of fiber per day, and men need at least 38g.
There are also two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber soaks up water as you digest it, which bulks everything in your digestive system and “keeps you regular,” like they say in the commercials. Insoluble fiber barely changes as you digest it, and it has the effect of keeping you feeling full and promoting digestive health.
Luckily, most fibrous foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, so don’t get hung up on the distinction between the two! Your body needs both, and both have positive effects on your heart, your weight, and your digestive system.
Fiber can help protect your heart. This is primarily because fiber helps to lower your cholesterol levels, which in turn lowers your risk of heart disease. Because fiber can’t really be broken down and digested, it binds to cholesterol in your digestive system and helps move it out of your body without it being absorbed into your bloodstream.
A diet with plenty of fiber also lowers your risk for diabetes and strokes, both of which have detrimental effects on your heart. You can also lower your blood pressure by adding plenty of fiber to your diet, and some fiber supplements are even marketed specifically towards people who want to improve their cardiovascular health.
When you’re trying to lose weight, you’re usually told to eat less of pretty much everything: less fat, less carbs, less food in general! You’ll be happy to learn that this is not the case when it comes to fiber. Adding more fiber to your diet can actually make it easier to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.
This is partly because fiber is “bulky.” It takes up a lot of space in your digestive system without adding a lot of calories to your diet, because your body can’t break it down and extract energy from it. When you eat a high-fiber diet, you naturally feel less hungry! A high-fiber meal keeps you fuller longer and probably contains fewer calories than a meal without much fiber.
Why doesn’t fiber add a lot of calories? Mainly because high-fiber foods tend to be lower-calorie foods. They include most fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains: all healthy types of food to add to your daily diet.
We’ll see that fiber plays other roles in weight loss below.
Most of what you’ve read about fiber probably connects it to your digestive health. In fact, you may even think of fiber as something you only take when you’re constipated! But certain types of fiber play an even bigger role in your digestive health than just as a remedy for occasional upset stomach, and I’m talking about prebiotics, not to be confused with probiotics.
Probiotics are good bacteria in our gut, prebiotics are indigestible parts of your food that feed and stimulate the “good” bacteria in your gut, essentially acting as a fertilizer!
Does bacteria in your gut sound scary? It shouldn’t. Everyone’s digestive system is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Luckily, when we eat plenty of fiber and maintain the health of the good bacteria in our systems, like helping stimulate their growth, they keep the bacteria that could make us suck in check, and we stay healthy. Good bacteria also affect our immune system, the way we digest foods, and can even help us lose weight!
By stimulating the growth of the good bacteria (probiotics), we can turn the tide on our gut health and reduce bloating, discomfort, and even reduce bad food cravings and slim down!
Now we’re getting to the effects of fiber that you’ve heard about before! Not only does fiber help the good and bad bacteria in your stomach in a healthy balance, it also guards your digestive system against disease and keeps your digestive system working smoothly.
Dietitian Joan Salge Blake writes, “We spend a lot of money on laxatives in this country.” This is partly because we tend to eat a diet full of processed carbohydrates–which our bodies can metabolize completely–and low on whole fruits, grains, and vegetables that contain the fiber we need for regular bowel movements and full physical health. Adding fiber to your diet can solve this problem for you, without necessitating expensive supplements! And an added bonus: you might lose weight.
Fiber also acts like a “broom” in your digestive tract, helping to sweep waste out of your body. For this reason, a diet higher in fiber can prevent diseases like diverticulitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and cancers of the digestive system.
Looking for More Fiber?
If you want to add more healthy fiber to your diet, those powders in the pharmacy aren’t your only option. We have a much more delicious way to get not only a big helping of fiber, but also plenty of protein and a wide variety of the vitamins and minerals you need every day.
Meet our newly revamped IdealBar! This tasty bar comes in Chocolate Peanut Butter, Double Chocolate, S’Mores, Cinnamon Caramel Crunch, and our brand new Honey Roasted Almond. Every single bar contains a whopping 20% of the fiber you need in your daily diet, plus at least 10 grams of protein. Even better, these bars taste like a treat!
When we revamped IdealBar, we chose a new and improved type of fiber for our recipe. VitaFiber is a GMO-free, gluten-free prebiotic fiber that causes less gas and bloating than most other fiber supplements. It gives you all of fiber’s positive effects with zero uncomfortable side effects, and amazing taste.
And guess what? Right now, all of our IdealBar flavors are on sale! You can grab a box for $12.50, or as low as $10 when you buy more!