Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber

You’ve probably heard that fiber is good for you, but are you eating enough? Research indicates that for optimum health, we should consume between 25-38 grams of fiber per day. The average consumption in America is around 15 grams per day, with many people taking in much less than that. Fiber is a carbohydrate but it’s a very special one. A molecule of dietary fiber is similar to a starch molecule in that they are both long chains of glucose molecules joined together. However, the type of bond that joins the glucose molecules together in fiber molecules is unique and indigestible for humans. This means we don’t absorb any of the calories from fiber, which makes unprocessed high fiber incredibly helpful for weight management. Secondly, eating a meal rich in fiber increases satiety (fullness) therefore you can understand why a recent study found that the most successful weight loss individuals eat about one-third more fiber than those struggling to lose weight even while dieting. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/apps/g/page/national/fiber-the-least-sexy-weight-loss-tool/1940/)

 

There are two types of dietary fiber, both of which support weight management. Most dietary fiber is insoluble fiber. This type of fiber is found in vegetables, whole grains, nuts and the edible skin of fruit (for example the peach skin or apple peel).  Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool and speeds intestinal transit time, preventing constipation and lowering the risk of digestive troubles like hemorrhoids, diverticulitis and importantly, colon cancer. Soluble fiber, so called because it is soluble in water, is the type of fiber that absorbs water and thickens. For example, pectin, a soluble fiber from apples, is used to thicken jams.  Soluble fiber is found in the flesh of fruit, legumes (beans and dried peas), oats, barley, peanuts and ground flax. The health benefits of soluble fiber include lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol, improving blood sugars, lowering risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. At Healthy Steps, our Mediterranean meal plans are packed with both soluble and insoluble fiber, around 40 grams per day, helping you improve your health and lose weight without feeling hungry.

 

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Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Lindsay Pasdera