Why is Fiber Good for You? You Need to Know

why is fiber good for you

One big reason why whole plant foods are beneficial for you is that they have fiber.

More and more research suggests that getting enough fiber may help your gut and lower your risk of developing chronic diseases.

Gut microbiota, which are the millions of bacteria that live in your digestive system, play a role in many of these effects.

However, not every fiber is the same. Different kinds are bad for your health in a variety of ways.

This article discusses the proven health benefits of fiber.

What is fiber?

Dietary fiber, an indigestible type of carbohydrate, makes up food items. There are two main groups based on how well they dissolve in water:

  • Soluble fiber: The “good” bacteria in the gut can break down soluble fiber in water.
  • Insoluble fiber: fiber that doesn’t break down in water

A better way to group fiber might be based on whether it is fermentable or non-fermentable, meaning that it can be used by good bacteria in the gut or not.

Remember that there are various kinds of fiber. Some of them are beneficial for your health, but most of them aren’t useful.

Also, soluble and insoluble fibers do a lot of the same things. The beneficial bacteria in your gut can break down some insoluble fibers, and most foods have both soluble and insoluble fibers.

Health Recommendations

Health experts say that men should eat 38 grams of fiber every day and women should eat 25 grams.

Why is fiber good for you?

1. Feeds “good” gut bacteria

There are 10 times as many germs as cells in the human body. There are bacteria on the skin, in the mouth, and in the nose, but most of them live in the gut, mainly in the large intestine.

There are between 500 and 1,000 types of bacteria, or about 38 trillion cells, living in the intestine. These little guys are also known as gut flora.

That’s fine. So it turns out that you and some of the bacteria that live in your digestive system are beneficial for each other.

You give the germs food, a place to live, and a safe place to live. They perform tasks our bodies can’t in exchange.

There are many types of bacteria, and some are essential for your health in many ways, such as controlling your weight, blood sugar, immune system, and even brain function.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with fiber. Bacteria, like all living things, need to eat to stay alive and do their jobs.

The problem lies in the body’s absorption of numerous carbohydrates, proteins, and fats before they even reach the big intestine. This means that the gut flora doesn’t get much to eat.

This is where the fiber comes in. Since human cells don’t have the enzymes to break down fiber, it mostly stays the same when it gets to the big intestine.

However, bugs in the gut do have enzymes that can break down many of these fibers.

For this primary reason, one or more types of food fiber are important for health. They work as prebiotics, feeding the “good” bacteria in the gut that make food.

This helps “good” bacteria grow in the gut, which can have many health benefits.

The beneficial bacteria make nutrients for the body, like butyrate, acetate, and propionate, which are short-chain fatty acids. Butyrate seems to be the most important of these.

These short-chain fatty acids can feed the cells in the colon, which can lower inflammation in the gut and help people with digestive problems like IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.

Bacteria also produce gases when they break down the fiber. This is why eating a lot of fiber can cause some people to have gas and stomach pain. Most of the time, these side effects disappear as your body adjusts to the medication.

2. Aid in weight loss.

Some kinds of fiber can help you lose weight by making you feel less hungry.

In fact, some studies show that eating more fiber can help you lose weight by lowering the number of calories you eat.

Fiber can soak up water in the intestines, which slows the intake of nutrients and makes you feel fuller.

But this is different for each type of fiber. Some types don’t change your weight at all, but some soluble fibers can make a big difference.

Glucomannan is a good example of a fiber-rich product that can help you lose weight.

3. May lower post-meal blood sugar levels

There is a difference between foods high in fiber and processed carbs, which have lost most of their fiber.

However, scientists believe that this trait is unique to high-viscosity, soluble fibers.

If you eat these thick, soluble fibers alongside carb-heavy foods, your blood sugar may rise less quickly.

Doing this is crucial, especially on a carb-heavy diet. In this case, the fiber can make it less likely that the carbs will raise your blood sugar to levels that are hazardous for you.

So, if you have problems with your blood sugar, you might want to cut back on carbs, especially refined carbs like white flour and added sugar, which are low in fiber.

4. Lowers cholesterol

Also, soluble, viscous fiber can help lower your cholesterol. The result isn’t nearly as strong as you might think, though.

Eating 2 to 10 grams of soluble fiber daily only reduced overall cholesterol by 1.7 mg/dl and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 2.2 mg/dl on average.

But this also depends on how thick the fiber is. Some studies have shown that eating more fiber can greatly lower cholesterol.

It’s not known if this will have any long-term effects, but many observational studies have shown that people who eat more fiber have a lower chance of heart disease.

5. Relieves constipation

Increased fiber intake reduces constipation. Fiber may help the stool absorb water, thicken up, and pass faster through the intestines. Contradictory evidence exists.

Some studies demonstrate that adding fiber improves constipation, while others show that removing fiber does. Effects depend on fiber type.

One study found that a low-fiber diet helped 63 chronic constipation patients. High-fiber dieters did not improve.

Fiber that improves stool water content is laxative, but the fiber that increases stool dry mass without improving water content may be constipating.

Gut bacteria do not ferment soluble fibers that gel in the gut. Gel-forming fibers include psyllium.

Sorbitol and other fibers act as laxatives, moving water into the colon. Prunes contain sorbitol. The correct fiber can improve constipation, but the wrong nutrients can hurt it.

Therefore, check with a doctor before taking fiber supplements for constipation.

6. Reduces colorectal cancer risk

Colorectal cancer kills the third-most people worldwide. Diets high in fiber minimize colon cancer risk, according to much research.

Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are abundant in fiber and contain other nutrients and antioxidants that may lower cancer risk.

Fiber is difficult to isolate from other elements in healthy, whole-food diets. There is no convincing evidence that fiber prevents cancer. Many scientists feel fiber is vital because it may help maintain a healthy gut wall. 

The bottom line

Fiber offers many health benefits. Fermentable fiber feeds gut bacteria and produces short-chain fatty acids that nourish the colon wall.

Viscous, soluble fiber may also reduce hunger, cholesterol, and blood sugar spikes after high-carb meals. Whole fruits, vegetables, and grains provide a range of fiber for a healthy lifestyle.

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