5 Reasons Why Fiber is One of Your Best Friends

Can Fiber help you lose weight?

Fiber isn't exactly one of the first things that jumps into the average person's mind when thinking of weight loss. Yet fiber can be your best friend if losing excess weight is a concern to you. Some foods really stand out when it comes to providing fiber that will help you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. First, let's take a look at what fiber is.

What Exactly is Fiber made of?

Like starches, fiber is composed of chains of sugar molecules. Although technically a carbohydrate, fiber cannot be digested by humans because we lack the right enzymes necessary to break it down into glucose (the same sugar found in blood) so it can be digested. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.

Types of Fiber

Soluble fiber is fiber that can dissolve in water. Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water. Soluble fiber has drawn a lot of attention from the medical community due to some of its health benefits. Soluble fiber promotes the growth of friendly bacteria (probiotics) in the intestinal tract.

Friendly Bacteria Get in the Game

The friendly bacteria are able to partially digest the soluble fiber and break it down into short-chain fatty acids that provide another energy source for the cells lining the colon.

Friendly bacteria in the gut also manufacture some B-vitamins and also help to keep harmful bacteria and fungi in check. Soluble fiber also absorbs toxins and heavy metals such as mercury and helps the body to eliminate them.

Soluble Fiber Lowers Cholesterol Levels

Soluble fiber also lowers cholesterol levels by binding to bile acids and preventing them from circulating back to the liver. Soluble fiber helps to normalize blood sugar levels by slowing the body's absorption of glucose following a meal. This can be helpful to diabetics and also to people with weight issues.

Helps Regulate Blood Sugar Levels

Normalized blood sugar levels lessen the amount of insulin the body needs to release to escort sugar into its cells. Since high levels of insulin can promote fat storage, lower insulin levels can help the body to burn fat instead of storing fat.

Keeps Things Moving Along

Insoluble fiber is not without its benefits. Insoluble fiber helps to move food through the digestive tract faster. This prevents constipation and lowers the risk for some diseases.

Feel Fuller Without Adding Extra Calories

Another benefit of fiber in regards to weight loss is the fact that fiber provides a feeling of fullness which makes a meal feel more satisfying without adding extra calories. When consuming a high fiber diet, it is of great importance to drink plenty of water as fiber tends to absorb water in the colon and can cause constipation if you don't drink enough water.

How much do we need per day?

Most foods that are good sources of fiber contain a mix of soluble and insoluble (although most tend to have more of one or the other). So, how much fiber do we need on a daily basis? Adult men up to the age of 50 need 38 grams and adult men age 51 and older need 30 grams. Adult women up to the age of 50 need 25 grams and adult women age 51 and older need 21 grams.

These figures are based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (these figures may change over time so check for the latest recommendations). The best foods to eat to get plenty of fiber in your daily diet are legumes such as kidney beans and green peas, berries such as raspberries and blackberries, whole grains such as oatmeal, and vegetables such as broccoli and leafy green vegetables.

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