Over the past few weeks, NFP has been completing numerous body composition analyses. Note: We would like to thank everyone who participated in helping us meet our requirements to become certified! While the measurements were being taken, many people had great questions regarding nutrition. One of the most frequently asked questions was about fiber, and how fiber contributes to our overall health. In this article, we will discuss what exactly fiber is, the types of fiber that are found in the foods you eat, and how the different types of fiber function uniquely in the body.
Before we begin, let’s answer the most important question….What is Fiber? Dietary fiber is the part of plant foods that the body cannot digest and absorb. Unlike other carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that can be digested and absorbed, fiber passes through the body, relatively unaltered, due to its complex structure. Dietary fiber has many health benefits including, helps with maintaining a healthy weight, maintains gut health, blood sugar control and can also decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. There are two types of fiber that can be found in the foods we eat; soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber is a fancy way of saying that this type of fiber can mix with water. When this type of fiber mixes with water, it forms a gel-like substance. Soluble fiber is good for weight loss, blood sugar control and lowering cholesterol. Due to soluble fiber being able to mix with water, it will take up more space in the stomach, keeping you feeling full and energized for a longer period of time. This can be very helpful when trying to lose weight. Because soluble fiber is not absorbed, it also does not cause blood sugar spikes. This control of blood sugar can help reduce the risk of diabetes and/or reduce sugar rises in someone who is a diabetic. Finally, soluble fiber helps to control cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol particles for excretion out of the body as waste. Foods high in soluble fiber include oatmeal, flax seeds, beans, lentils, pears and apples (white inner part of the apple).
Insoluble fiber is fiber that does not mix with water. This type of fiber helps with digestive health, digestive motility, and weight loss. Insoluble fiber helps keep regular bowel movements and can help with gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, hemorrhoids, and diarrhea. This form of fiber helps with weight loss similar to soluble fiber’s effect; adding bulk, making you feel full and energized for a longer period of time. This will help with achieving weight loss goals. Foods high in insoluble fiber include most vegetables, whole wheat flour, oatmeal, beans, berries, and apples (skin part of the apple).
It is always important to review the dietary fiber information, located on nutrition labels, to ensure you are consuming the daily recommended fiber amount. The current recommendation from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is 25 grams of fiber per day for women and 38 grams per day for males. However, if you are over the age of 51 the recommendation decreases to 21 grams and 30 grams daily, respectively. If you look at the nutrition label below, you can see the Dietary Fiber is 8 grams (31%). Below that total dietary fiber, you will notice the breakdown of the two fiber types; soluble and insoluble fiber.
So there you have it! Be sure to download our fiber infographic to help remind you of the benefits of fiber and where to find it!