All About Fiber

Fiber is an incredibly important component of a healthy diet.  The recommendation is for females to consume at least 25 grams of fiber daily and males to consume at least 38 grams of fiber daily.  According to Healthy people 2010 data, Americans are currently not meeting this as typical intake is around 15 grams daily, with white flour and potatoes being the two largest sources of fiber in the diet (how sad is that?!).

Dietary Fiber 

Dietary fibers are found naturally in the plants that we eat. They are parts of plant that do not break down in our stomachs, and instead pass through our system undigested. All dietary fibers are either soluble or insoluble. Both types of fiber are equally important for health, digestion, and preventing conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, diverticulitis, and constipation. 

Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber 

Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Insoluble fiber does not. To some degree these differences determine how each fiber functions in the body and benefits your health. 

Soluble fibers attract water and form a gel, which slows down digestion. Soluble fiber delays the emptying of your stomach and makes you feel full, which helps control weight. Slower stomach emptying may also affect blood sugar levels and have a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity, which may help control diabetes. Soluble fibers can also help lower LDL (“bad”) blood cholesterol by interfering with the absorption of dietary cholesterol. 

Sources of soluble fiber: oatmeal, oat cereal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, beans, dried peas, blueberries, psyllium, cucumbers, and zucchini. 

Insoluble fibers are considered gut­healthy fiber because they have a laxative effect and add bulk to the diet, helping prevent constipation. These fibers do not dissolve in water, so they pass through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact, and speed up the passage of food and waste through your gut. Insoluble fibers are mainly found in whole grains and vegetables. 

Sources of insoluble fiber: whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, corn bran, seeds, nuts, barley, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes, fruit, and root vegetable skins.

All About Fiber

What is fiber?

One of the topics that I find myself talking a lot about with clients is fiber as it is essential to healthy eating.  Fiber is a nondigestible substance that reduces the risk of many chronic health conditions, including diabetes mellitus, heart disease, constipation, diverticulosis, obesity, and certain cancers.  It is found in fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, bran, oats, and whole-grain products.  

Dietary recommendations for daily fiber intake is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.

Insoluble vs Soluble

There are two different types of fiber: insoluble and soluble.  Both types provide the health benefits detailed below, in fact getting a miz in your diet is the best approach.  Soluble fibers dissolve in water and are fermented by intestinal bacteria while insoluble fibers do not, instead they are more viscous.  Soluble fiber examples include the cellulose that makes up the meat of an apple or the lignins in beans.  Insoluble fiber examples include the pectins in vegetable skins or citrus fruits.

The Physiology Behind the Benefits

I personally feel that understanding the body and the science of good nutrition helps to motivate people to follow through.  I hope that at least one or two of these motivate you!

  • Fiber helps to moderate blood cholesterol levels.  How?  In the digestive tract fiber holds onto bile salts (a compound that helps digest fat) which end up being excreted instead of reabsorbed.  This means your body uses cholesterol from the blood to create new bile salts.
  • Fiber slows the release of food from the stomach during digestion, in turn this slows the absorption of glucose in the blood stream and improves blood sugar control.  
  • Fiber helps keep things moving in the digestive tract so that potential cancer promoting substances spend less time in contact with the intestinal lining.


Food Trend: Chia Seeds

I've been getting questions recently on chia seeds and thought I'd brush everyone up on this new food trend.  Chia seeds are the new flaxseed.  They can be picked up at your local grocery store (or Trader Joe's/Whole Foods!) and are in fact the seed of those Chia Pets that became popular about 15-20 years ago.  

Chia seeds nutrient profile: 1 tablespoon contains 70 calories and the following...

  • 4.5 grams of unsaturated fats - the healthy ones that push cholesterol in the right directions, most of which are the omega-3s that help to fight inflammation in the body
  • 5.5 grams of soluble fiber - an excellent source of this fiber that helps slow carbohydrate absorption for longer, more even energy, helps fight cardiovascular disease, and aids in healthy digestion
  • 2 grams protein - although not packed with protein it is a high quality complete protein, making chia seeds a good additive to the diet for vegetarians and vegans
  • Enumerable antioxidants, and some vitamins and minerals (Calcium, Iron, Thiamine, Phosphorus, etc.)

I also found it fascinating that they are capable of forming a gel-like consistency as they are very hydrophilic.  At some point I'll have to experiment with using it in recipes as a fat-replacer and emulsifier.

Happy Chia-seeding!