With so many pre-packaged snack foods and refined carbohydrates in the modern diet, many people never consume the amount of dietary fiber that is recommended for optimum health. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that consists of the indigestible portions of plant matter. There are two types of fiber. Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water; insoluble fiber cannot. Both play important roles in bodily functions. Here are three important reasons you should increase the amount of fiber in your diet.
Fiber and Cardiovascular Health
Medical studies have long supported the positive influence of fiber on heart and blood vessel health. Consuming adequate fiber on a consistent basis significantly reduces serum cholesterol levels. Lowered cholesterol lessens the risk of plaque build-up in arteries that leads to coronary artery disease. The disease process can develop over a long period of time without being detected until symptoms of advanced disease are evident. Untreated, it often results in heart attacks and strokes, some of which are fatal. Fiber has also been shown to reduce blood pressure in some studies. Besides its direct effects on the cardiovascular system, fiber also helps to prevent metabolic conditions that are closely linked to heart disease.
Fiber and Metabolism
Diets high in fiber are associated with lower obesity rates. Fiber helps to manage body weight in several ways. Because it passes through the body slowly without being digested, it serves as a bulking agent. This means that high-fiber food choices help you to eat less in general and to feel fuller longer. Fiber also helps to control blood sugar spikes by slowing the digestion of simple carbohydrates. By doing so, it can help to both prevent pre-diabetic conditions in vulnerable individuals and help diabetics control their blood sugar more easily.
Fiber’s Gastrointestinal Effects
Fibre helps to move bulk smoothly through the intestines; this promotes regular bowel action and eliminates toxins from the body more quickly. It also helps to balance intestinal pH; this keeps unfriendly organisms in check to prevent the release of toxic, cancer-causing substances. Since it plays such an important role in digestion and elimination, diets lacking fiber can lead to many intestinal problems. Consuming enough fibre helps to prevent conditions such as constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer.
How to Increase Fiber Intake
In general, adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains is the easiest way to increase both soluble and insoluble fibre in your diet. Good sources of insoluble fiber include green leafy vegetables, fruit skins, whole grain wheat products, wheat or corn bran and nuts. For more soluble fiber, eat oat bran and other oat products, beans and peas, flax seed, apples, pears, bananas, berries, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, broccoli and potatoes. The same foods that give you more beneficial fiber in your diet are also rich in vitamins and antioxidants that enhance your health in various other ways. Adding healthy, fiber-rich food choices to your everyday menu can help you to lead to a longer and healthier life.