What Is Fiber And Why Is It Important?
Fiber is easily the most overlooked and underrated carbohydrate in our modern day diets. With an abundance of processed foods, fast foods, and a lack of cooking skills, the fiber we need to digest, absorb, and excrete our food is often not to be found. And if it is? It’s often in much lower amounts than we need. We’re going to figure out what is fiber and why is it important for you and your diet to improve your health, reduce bloating, improve nutrient absorption and how it can help you improve your overall body composition.
What Is Fiber?
Fiber is an essential component of a healthy diet and a carbohydrate that your body doesn’t digest. While carbohydrates are broken down into an energy source and absorbed from the GI, fiber stays in the GI, sweeping nutrients through efficiently and effectively. Fiber isn’t metabolized like most carbohydrates because fiber doesn’t raise blood sugar levels or contribute to body fat.
Most often people don’t get nearly enough because they don’t eat vegetables or whole grains. Additionally, with the hype around low carbohydrate diets, fiber can be severely lacking with individuals who purposefully avoid carbohydrates altogether.
What Is Fiber Good For?
Instead, fiber plays an important role in your digestive health. Fiber not only helps with the digestion and absorption of our food, but also contributes to having healthy bowel movements, avoiding hemorrhoids, and reducing the risk for developing colon cancer, among some other really great benefits like lowering cholesterol levels, improving insulin resistance, and keeping blood glucose levels stable. [R].
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Difference Between Soluble And Insoluble Fiber
Fiber comes in two different forms, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber partially ferments in your gut and aids in digestion by improving the digestion and absorption of food. It can help lower cholesterol and contribute to balance blood sugar/blood glucose levels. Soluble fiber can be found in things like oats, peas, beans, apples, carrots, and citrus fruits.
On the other hand, insoluble fiber helps pass food contents throughout the GI tract and contributes to healthy bowel movements. You can think of it as a little broom that moves food down the GI and to the colon for excretion. It woks in conjunction with the lower GI bacteria to really complete the digestion process before you head to take a number 2. You can find insoluble fiber in foods such as whole wheat or bran foods, vegetables, beans, green beans, sweet potatoes, and edamame.
How Much Fiber Per Day Do You Need?
On average, most of the people who come into coaching don’t get enough fiber from the food they eat on a daily basis. Most people are only consuming 5-15g of fiber per day where the daily recommendation and dietary guideline for Americans is anywhere from 20-30g of protein per day, with the lower end recommendation is for women and the higher for men. [R]
Yikes! That means that most people are only getting maybe HALF the daily amount of fiber that they need. It’s a no wonder that our insulin responses, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol levels are out of wack.
Fiber And Bloating
Among the health issues we commonly see affected by a reduced amount of fiber here in the United States, another downside of not consuming enough fiber from things like whole grains, vegetables, beans and legumes, is the amount of bloating, constipation, and upset stomach that people experience. These three things are the biggest digestive issues we see clients face when they come into coaching and that they have the most trouble figuring out why they are happening in the first place, on their own, before starting with a coach.
While there’s no way to measure how much fiber we have in our body at one time, we can correlate digestive issues back to what we’re putting in our mouths and what our diets look like. If you eat a lot of processed foods, eat out a lot, follow a low carbohydrate diet or restrict calories often, chances are you’re not getting enough fiber, and with an uptick in this nutrient, you can begin to alleviate some of those negative side effects pretty quickly.
What Are Net Carbs?
First and foremost, if you’re following a low carbohydrate diet or keto, you’re probably not getting enough fiber because your diet doesn’t include high fiber foods. That being said, high fiber foods don’t typically contribute towards overall carbohydrate intake, because of something called net-carbs. Net carbs are the carbohydrates that you can digest and use for energy to perform activities. Fiber doesn’t break down in the GI tract and therefor isn’t absorbed to be used as an energy form. It’s more so used for moving food through the GI, and therefore, it stays in the GI passing through unchanged. To find net carbs, you take the total amount of carbohydrates in a food and subtract fiber to get the net carbs, aka the carbs that your body will use towards energy.
Should You Track Net Carbs Or Total Carbs?
This is a common question with those who are tracking macros - should you track carbs or net carbs? Should you log vegetables or not? Typically, coaches will give a carbohydrate goal as well as a vegetable goal. For example having a goal of 140g carbs with 4-6 servings of vegetables per day.
Other coaches might have you track total carbohydrates instead of net carbs because those that contain soluble fiber will only make up >25% of daily total carbs. So all in all? Counting net carbs and vegetables separately can provide more confusion than benefit.
Not sure what is right for you? Try one way for a while, then try the other, but instead of harping on carbohydrates, focus on the quality of those carbohydrates and making sure you’re getting the most nutrients you can. You can also consult your coach and follow their recommendation as well so you can focus on the foods and not so much the ‘thought’ until you get better at the habit.
How To Eat More Fiber
The biggest takeaway that we want you to gain from this article is not the information about fiber but more so that we need a robust amount of fiber from the food we eat. The question that remains is this - how to eat more fiber? By incorporating high fiber foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, legumes, nuts, seeds, and even supplements like Clean Carbs from Swolverine, you will begin to get closer to that 20-30g range of fiber per day.
What does that look like built into your day? It means eating a whole grain toast with your eggs in the AM, having a fiber rich fruit and vegetable as a snack, adding in overnight oats or drinking Clean Carbs before your workout, and instead of snacking or opting for processed foods and simple carbohydrates, integrating beans, legumes, and lean proteins into your diet on a regular basis.
Another high fiber snack, especially for those who eat a lot of candy or have a sweet tooth, would be Smart Sweets which are candy flavored just like normal candy go-to's like gummy bears, worms, fish and rings. They are pure fiber, no protein, no fat, and are made with allulose so that the net carb content is only ~10g.
You can opt for chili and soups, make mashed ‘potatoes’ with cauliflower or sweet potatoes, and having whole grain crackers or brown rice pastas with your food. We recommend avoiding simple sugars, candy, fruit juices, and things that have been majorly altered from their natural state.
What Is Fiber And Why Is It Important: Takeaway
Since fiber isn’t broken down into smaller molecules that your body uses for energy, fiber is an essential nutrient for helping move food through the digestive tract optimizing the absorption of our food altogether. Fiber also helps regulate blood sugar levels, hunger levels, and reducing our risk of developing hemorrhoids, colon cancer, and high cholesterol levels.
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