Why Is Fiber Important?
Consult pretty much any dietary recommendation on the web, and you’ll likely find a strong recommendation to include a good deal of fiber in your diet. So what is fiber, and what’s good about it?
What is Fiber?
Fiber is the benign stuff you eat that you cannot digest. Basically, it is plant matter as meat contains no fiber. You can think of there being two types:
- Soluble fiber (bran, nuts, seeds and beans mainly). This holds water and turns into a kind of gel during digestion.
- Insoluble fiber (wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains) remains solid and helps speed the passage of foods through the stomach.
What is Good About It?
The immediate benefit of adequate fiber, particularly soluble fiber, is the relief (or prevention) of constipation. Constipation is generally bad for you because it retains waste (including poisons) in the body where it can do no good and will eventually cause problems. It also reduces the occurrence of hemorrhoids and inflammation of the intestine (diverticulitis) and may relieve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to some degree (less diarrhea, abdominal pain and gas).
Fibrous food tends to require more chewing. Where it takes longer to eat and digest, your stomach may feel full sooner and that may aid weight maintenance or weight loss efforts. Fiber is known to reduce abdominal obesity (which generally manifests as belly fat), which in turn decreases the risk of heart disease.
It also helps to lower serum cholesterol levels, which some regard as a risk factor for heart disease.
In connection with this, a study out of Boston’s Harvard University indicated that men who consumed the highest levels of dietary fiber (around 28.9 grams per day) had a 40% lower risk of heart disease.
Fiber bulks out the food you eat and thus is less likely to cause blood sugar to spike, which is useful if you suffer from diabetes (and/or obesity). It is particularly convenient for anyone pursuing a keto diet.
The Neat Thing
The neatest thing about fiber is that nobody seems to find any fault with it. In the world of diets, that’s rare.