Unfortunately, the typical American diet is sadly devoid of fiber. And if you're one of the millions of people who suffer from gas, constipation, and bloating the lack of fiber could be placing your health in risk.
Not eating enough fiber could be the catalyst to many serious diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
The good news is that if you increase the fiber in your diet you not only feel better...you'll sleep better...you'll have more energy...and you'll live longer. That's not such a bad deal for a small change in how you eat.
But let me remind you that not all fiber is created equal. And just resorting to swallowing a fiber pill regularly might not be such a great idea. That's because your body craves real fiber from real food.
Different Fiber Does Different Things
There are two primary sources of fiber. They are soluble and insoluble. They both play a crucial role in your good health.
Soluble fiber forms a gel when it mixes with water. Insoluble fiber doesn't.
Let's look at insoluble fiber first. Think of it as a scrubbing brush for your digestive system. It passes through your colon without undergoing much change. It helps to move waste out of your body quicker. This helps to keep your body's pH levels in proper balance. It provides a number of other health benefits, too.
Insoluble fibers helps you to maintain a healthy weight. In fact, the rise in obesity in this country tracks closely with the decline in fiber consumption. A high fiber diet is proven to promote weight loss. 1
Insoluble fiber also helps reduce the risk of colon cancer. In one Japanese study, the participants who had the highest intake of insoluble fiber reduced the risk of colon cancer by 35% when compared to those with the lowest intake. 2
Soluble fiber plays a different role. When it forms a gel, it bonds with certain parts of foods. In the process, it helps to lower your LDL cholesterol levels. It also makes the sugars in food release more slowly, which can help with insulin resistance and diabetes.
In one study, an increase in soluble fiber improved the overall lipid profile of patients. It improved cholesterol ratio levels and reduced other risk factors, as well. 3 Other studies have shown that soluble fiber lowers total cholesterol, triglycerides, and fasting blood sugar. It also raises HDL cholesterol. Overall, it has a profound affect on heart disease risk factors. 4
The Best Foods to Boost Your Fiber Intake
When it comes to getting more fiber in your diet, I recommend you focus on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans.
The best sources of insoluble fiber are root vegetables like carrots and turnips, dark leafy greens, green beans, fruits that you eat with the skins on, and seeds and nuts. The best sources of soluble fiber are fruits, vegetables and nuts. Flaxseeds are also good.
By eating more fiber, you'll see immediate results in how you feel and you'll promote your long-term health, too.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Institute For Healthy AgingConstipation
1 Hamilton CC, Anderson JW. "Fiber and weight managements," J Fla Med Assoc 1992; 79(6): 379-81
2 Wakai K, et al. "Dietary risk factors for colon and rectal cancers: a comparative case-control study," J Epidemiol 2006; 16(3): 125-35
3 Sola R, et al. "Effects of soluble fiber (Plantago ovata husk) on plasma lipids, lipoproteins, and apolipoproteins in men with ischemic heart disease," Am J Clin Nutr 2007; 85(4): 1157-63
4 Butt MS, et al. "Guar gum: a miracle therapy for hypercholesterolemia, hyperglycemia and obesity," Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 2007; 47(4): 389-96