Looking after our gut health is absolutely vital for keeping our bodies running smoothly. And, dietary fiber plays a huge role in supporting our digestive health.
In fact, most of us have probably already heard the phrase “eat more fiber.” And for good reason! Dietary fiber is an essential component of a well-balanced and healthy diet.
However, some people may not be consuming enough dietary fiber on a regular basis. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), many Americans don’t consume enough dietary fiber.
That’s why it may be useful to know exactly what dietary fiber is and why it’s so important for our overall wellness. We’re going to break it down for you to help you get a better understanding of this digestion-supporting superstar.
What is dietary fiber?
Dietary fiber is basically the non-digestible part of plant foods. Also known as ‘roughage’, fiber is a type of carbohydrate found in certain foods. Good sources of fiber include foods like certain fruit and vegetables, whole grains, cereal fiber, oat bran, beans, nuts and seeds, and legumes.
Unlike white bread, pasta, and sugar, dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate which means that it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels.
Is dietary fiber necessary?
Dietary fiber is considered an essential nutrient, which means that it should be included as part of a well-balanced diet. A high-fiber diet has been associated with many health benefits, including promoting digestive and heart health, and regular bowel movements.
What happens when you lack dietary fiber?
According to some studies, following a low-fiber diet can have a negative impact on your health and increase the risk of certain concerns. This medical research particularly emphasizes the importance of a diet high in fiber on digestive and colon health. When you're lacking in this important part of your diet, it may even be counterproductive to weight loss efforts or lead to concerns like bloating and constipation.
Therefore, it's important to make sure that you are getting enough fiber each day. You can do so either by following high fiber diets which include plenty of foods that contain fiber. Your body will thank you!
Did you know that there are actually two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble?
Types of fiber
Fiber can be split into two main types according to their water solubility, or how easily it dissolves in water.
They are basically categorized as:
- Soluble fiber: This type of fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the gut. Soluble fiber can be metabolized by so-called “good” bacteria that live in our microbiome.
- Insoluble fiber: This form of fiber does not dissolve in water. Because it remains mostly intact in the digestive system, it’s known for “bulking up” stool. It's known to help ease constipation.
Most high-fiber foods contain both fibers, which are both equally important when it comes to balanced gut health. Rather than being concerned with getting enough of each type, it makes more sense to focus on your overall intake of fiber.
Let’s take a closer look at these two types of dietary fiber and the health advantages associated with each one.
Potential Health Benefits of Fiber
As we mentioned, this kind of fiber is the kind that dissolves in water. It first forms a gel-like substance in the gut which is later broken down by bacteria in the large intestine.
It plays a role in how dietary fat and cholesterol are absorbed by the body. According to studies, this means that soluble fiber can have a positive impact on LDL cholesterol levels in the blood.
Because it forms a substance that resembles a gel, soluble fiber can help with healthy weight management. This gel “sits” in the gut which, according to some studies, may slow down the absorption of nutrients, promote the feeling of fullness, and reduce appetite.
The slower absorption of nutrients like carbohydrates also has other benefits. Studies suggest that soluble fiber can help prevent blood sugar levels from spiking after consuming a meal high in carbs. This can help keep blood sugar levels more stable.
All of these benefits can, in turn, help to encourage better heart health and have been used as a topic in research on heart disease as well (although research is still ongoing).
And it doesn’t stop there!
Some types of soluble fiber may also help to feed the “good” bacteria in the gut, functioning as a kind of prebiotic. This can boost the “beneficial” bacteria in the gut and promote gut health!
That's why, for example, a lot of this type of fiber is also called fermentable fiber. Fermentable fiber can be broken down, or digested, by "good" gut bacteria. When they break down this fiber, these bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids, or SCFAs, can positively impact your overall wellness, according to some studies.
Butyrate, for example, is one type of short-chain fatty acid that is produced through this process. Studies suggest that butyrate, in particular, may help to promote a more balanced gut.
Soluble fiber is naturally found in fruits and vegetables such as apples, citrus fruits, carrots, and peas. Oats, barley, and psyllium are also good sources of this type of fiber.
This type of fiber is the kind that does not dissolve in water. That means that it passes through your digestive system more or less intact.
Insoluble fiber is mostly known for promoting better digestive and bowel health. Studies have suggested that insoluble fiber can help ease constipation. It does this by absorbing and attracting water to stool, making it softer and easier to pass. This helps to support more regular bowel movements.
By boosting regularity, consuming enough insoluble fiber helps to boost not only your physical wellness but also your mood. If you’ve ever experienced any kind of tummy trouble, you probably know that it can put you in a seriously bad mood!
High-fiber veggies like cauliflower and green beans as well as nuts, whole-grain foods, whole wheat flour, and wheat bran all contain insoluble fiber.
Recommended fiber intake: how much dietary fiber do I need daily?
Generally, the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is about 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women per day, according to the National Institutes of Health. The suggested intake includes both types of fiber.
The recommended intake may also fluctuate depending on factors such as your age and health. However, the NIH states that the average American only consumes about 14 grams of fiber per day.
Is it possible to consume too much fiber?
It seems that generally consuming too little dietary fiber is a more common issue than consuming too much. However, it is possible to eat too much fiber.
Some experts suggest keeping your fiber intake below 70 grams per day to avoid unpleasant side effects. These may include digestive discomfort, bloating, and excess gas.
Some ways to help reduce these symptoms are to address other aspects of your diet, for example by reducing your consumption of sugar and artificial sweeteners which can also cause bloating. Another tip is to eat cooked rather than raw vegetables.
Getting plenty of exercise is also another way to reduce the feeling of bloating.
Who should take a fiber supplement?
Fiber supplements are a great way to increase your intake of dietary fiber. They’re especially useful for those who struggle to consume enough fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Some people may lead busy lifestyles which may make it harder to maintain a diet rich in these foods. Others may also have allergies or food sensitivities which prevent them from eating certain foods that are high in fiber. People with nut or wheat allergies or sensitivities, for example, may benefit from a fiber supplement that does not contain either of these ingredients.
What else do I need to know about taking a fiber supplement?
It’s good to make sure that you consume enough fluids for your overall wellness. But especially if you’re increasing your dietary fiber intake. Drinking plenty of water or other fluids is particularly helpful whether you’re boosting your fiber consumption through your diet or natural supplements.
Go for convenience
When picking a fiber supplement, there are a whole host of different options available. These days they come in all shapes and forms, from powders to capsules to gummies! That's why it's not a bad idea to choose the type that is easiest for you to consume. This makes it more likely that you'll actually remember to take it on a regular basis.
As always with natural supplements, it’s important to choose products that contain only the best, high-quality ingredients. It’s also good to look out for products that have been third-party lab-tested. This helps to ensure that they're made with safe and effective ingredients.
Combine with a healthy lifestyle
If you’re planning on trying a fiber supplement, you’ll generally get the most benefits when you combine them with healthy lifestyle habits. These include getting plenty of rest, exercise, as well as sticking to a well-balanced diet.
It’s also a good idea to consult with a doctor for medical advice before beginning any natural supplements, particularly if you have specific health concerns.
The bottom line
Both soluble and insoluble fibers are super essential for a healthy diet and lifestyle. They help support many facets of our health, including cardiovascular and digestive health.
Many Americans don’t get enough fiber in their daily diet.
One way to increase your fiber intake is to adopt a high-fiber diet. You can do this by slowly eating more fiber-rich foods that are naturally high in fiber to gain both short- and long-term benefits.
Some people who are unable to eat these types of high-fiber foods may also benefit from taking a fiber supplement.
Our Fiber Gummies are delicious and easy to take on-the-go for a quick fiber fix to help support regularity and healthy weight management.
We hope you found this article on the importance of dietary fiber helpful! What do you want to see from us next? Leave us a comment or connect with us on social media @PRIMALHARVEST to join our Primal Harvest Tribe community.
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