Is Eating Fiber Overrated? A Holistic Nutritionist Explains
You may think fiber's a dull, overrated topic.
Personally, I get quite excited by fiber and what it's capable of. I also believe most of us don't get enough.
So, my answer to the question "Is fiber overrated?" would be a resounding NO. There are many reasons fiber is amazing for your health and well-being. Read on to find out why.
What is fiber?
Generally speaking, dietary fiber (DF) comes from the edible parts of plants or carbohydrates that resist digestion and absorption in the small intestine. Some of this fiber goes on to be fermented (broken down) by bacteria in the large intestine.
What does fiber do to the body?
- It makes poop thicker and stickier and adds bulk, which moves it quickly through the colon for removal.
- Fiber changes the way we absorb nutrients and decreases the amount of energy we metabolize.
- It produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are essential for optimal health.
- It plays a role in the production of gut hormones.
Where can you find it?
There are two forms:
Soluble fiber (SF)
Found in some vegetables, fruit, chia seeds, legumes, nuts, oatmeal, and psyllium.
Soluble fiber attracts water, swells, and forms a gel. It bypasses digestion in the small intestine and is fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. The bacteria in our gut ferment SF into SCFAs. Soluble fiber can slow down the digestion of food.
Insoluble fiber (IF)
Is found in whole grains, seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, carrots, and fruit skins.
They are not water-soluble and do not form gels. Insoluble fiber adds roughage, which bulks poop and helps move it through the colon quickly.
Fiber promotes health in a lot of different ways:
DF protects against cancer in a few ways:
- Fermented in the large intestine to produce short SCFAs, which are cancer protective
- Increases antioxidant levels, which protect cells from damage
- Improves estrogen removal in poop. Elevated estrogen can lead to changes and chronic disease in tissues
Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, obesity, and type-2 diabetes. DF protects the heart in the following ways:
- Regulates energy intake, which maintains healthy weight and enhances weight loss
- Regulates blood sugar levels and decreases energy uptake, which lower the risk of type-2 diabetes
- Decreases plaque formation in the arteries
- Decreases C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory marker that is often predictive of heart disease
Prevents obesity & hunger
DF prevents obesity and reduces hunger in the following ways:
- When soluble fiber is fermented in the large intestine, it produces gut hormones that reduce hunger.
- Decreases energy digestibility and uptake
- As DF increases in the diet, refined carbohydrate intake often decreases. Refined carbohydrates mess with blood sugar balance and appetite. This leads to overconsumption and weight gain.
Prevents type-2 diabetes
DF prevents diabetes by:
- Lowering blood sugar and insulin after food consumption
- Slows carbohydrate breakdown and sugar absorption by adding thickness to the stomach contents. This slows stomach emptying and prevents blood sugar spikes.
- Produces SCFA, which increases insulin sensitivity. This means the body is more effective at using insulin and blood sugar levels are controlled.
- High vegetable intake has been shown to lower the incidence of type-2 diabetes by 80 percent.
Affects the microbiome
What excites me most about fiber is that it feeds and fertilizes our gut bacteria, produces SCFA, prevents leaky gut, and is essential for optimal digestion and a healthy microbiome (gut flora).
A healthy microbiome:
- Prevents obesity
- Decreases hunger
- Assists in weight loss
- Promotes a healthy heart
- Protects against colon cancer
- Is anti-inflammatory and decreases symptoms of Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, and IBS
- Improves mood, anxiety, and depression
By now I hope that fiber has gained your respect, that you no longer overlook its importance, and that you start filling your plate with loads of quality sources so that your health can flourish as a result.
For great sources of fiber, check out: