Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in plant-based foods. Humans can’t actually digest fiber, but it plays an important role in your body.
Let’s start by looking at the two types of fiber:
1. Soluble fiber dissolves when it comes in contact with water, which forms a gel-like substance in your intestines. Soluble fiber helps slow down the rate your stomach empties, which allows your body to extract more nutrients from food and makes you feel fuller longer.
Healthy foods high in soluble fiber include:
- Oat bran
- Nuts and seeds
- Dried peas
2. Insoluble fiber passes through your digestive system intact. It promotes a healthy digestive system by making food travel through your system faster and adding bulk to your stool.
Healthy foods high in insoluble fiber include:
- Whole wheat bread
- Brown rice
- Whole grain breakfast cereals
- Wheat bran
- Sunflower seeds
Benefits of Eating Foods High in Fiber
Eating a diet high in fiber appears to have a variety of health benefits. Fiber may help:
- Improve your cholesterol levels
- Lower your risk of digestive disorders
- Combat high blood pressure
- Reduce your risk of diabetes
- Avoid and relieve constipation
I’ve heard some people say that eating a diet high in fiber can lower risk of colon cancer, and would like to set the record straight on this one.
This assumption was largely based on several small research studies. But, two larger and better-designed studies failed to show a correlation between fiber and colon cancer.
So fiber’s good for your heart … but it has no proven anti-cancer properties, despite what you may have heard.
How Much Fiber Should You Eat?
The average person eats just 15 grams of fiber each day.
However, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, most adult women should shoot for at least 20 grams of fiber a day and most men should shoot for at least 30 grams.
Note that your main sources of fiber should come from whole food sources. Be wary of packaged foods that say “great source of fiber.” Food companies add synthetic fiber through complex processing methods … so the fiber in most of these foods is not natural. The science is still scant on whether added fibers have the same positive effects as naturally-occurring fiber.
List of Healthy Foods High in Fiber by Food Group
This article is #3 in my 9-part Healthy Eating 101 tutorial.
To go to the next article about the best sources of protein click here.
To read article #2 about the best sources of fiber click here.
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 Park Y, Hunter DJ, Spiegelman D, et al. Dietary Fiber Intake and Risk of Colorectal Cancer: A Pooled Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. JAMA. 2005; 294:2849–2857.