You might hear quite often how fruits, vegetables and whole grains are packed with fiber, and fiber helps you to lose weight.
Fiber isn’t a magical supplement that kills fat cells or makes your stomach automatically flatter like advertisements might make you think.
What is fiber?
Fiber is a form of carbohydrate (yes, carbs!), but that is different from other forms of carbohydrates because our body cannot digest it.
It comes from plants, and older generations and doctors often call it roughage or bulk, since it gives substance to what we expel from our body.
Unlike other forms of carbohydrates, which our body breaks down into glucose for energy, fiber cannot be broken down by the human digestive system. Instead, it goes through the digestive system and out of the body.
So why do we need fiber?
High fiber foods have a range of benefits, including:
- Normalizing bowel movements, preventing and alleviating constipation
- Can help promote bowel health by helping to prevent hemorrhoids and diverticulitis
- Lowers cholesterol levels, especially LDL “bad” cholesterol
- Controls blood sugar, which is especially beneficial if you have, or at risk of, type 2 diabetes
- Helps you achieve a healthy weight
Yes! You read that last one correctly. High-fiber foods are more filling that low-fiber foods, meaning you are satisfied by eating less food. Fiber-rich foods will also help you feel fuller for longer. Additionally, high-fiber foods tend to have fewer calories than the same volume of low-fiber foods.
The National Institute of Medicine recommends that you consume between 25 and 38 grams of fiber a day; if you are a man and younger you will need more fiber than if you are a woman and older.
What Foods Are Considered High in Fiber?
High-fiber foods, as recommended by the Mayo Clinic, include:
- Whole-grain products
- Beans, peas and other legumes
- Nuts and seeds
Avoid foods that are highly processed or refined – the more refined they are, the less fiber it is likely to have.