Ask a Nutritionist: Fantastic Fiber
We hear about needing fiber in our diet all the time. In fact, it is a pretty common thing for people to talk about when addressing digestive issues. However, what scientists and nutritionists have told us about fiber decades ago does not quite match up to what they know about it now. It is the same with cholesterol and fats, there are healthy and unhealthy versions of them in the food we eat. And we didn’t exactly learn how to tell them apart until recently. So, what is the right thing to eat? What kind is good for our bodies and which is not really all that beneficial? Let’s find out.
What is the Function of Fiber?
Healthline.com defines fiber as, “a diverse group of carbohydrates that humans cannot digest.” They are found naturally in plant foods or can be extracted and placed in processed foods.
Fiber is something that our bodies cannot naturally digest when we consume it. While this might sound like a bad thing out of context, our bodies do not need to digest everything quickly. The number of nutrients that are present in what we eat is small. Especially, compared to the size and weight of what we ingest. So, we need fiber to help us expel what we don’t need.
Another thing that makes the idea and existence of fiber more complicated is that there are different types of fiber that exist. So, is there such a thing as harmful fiber? What are the different types in the first place?
Types of Fiber
There are several types of fiber that can help us remove excess waste. All of them equally, have an important role to play in digestive health. Just like any other nutrient or element in nutrition, if there is too much of one or the other then it will cause overall health problems.
According to Web MD, “All types of soluble fibers slow digestion, so it takes longer for your body to absorb sugar (glucose) from the foods you eat. ” It does this by blends with water in our guts, forming a gel-like substance. The gel substance binds with fatty acids and ultimately flushes out bad cholesterol. This type of fiber is common in gums, which act as natural adhesives, and pectin, soft plant cells that acts like a gel substance.
Some examples of soluble fibers can be found in oats, beans nuts, peas, lentils, berries, and vegetables.
Insoluble fibers slow down digestion but in a different way. It moves waste through the intestines by bulking up the stool. Also, it speeds up the waste removal process by acting like a brush that sweeps out the rest of the waste through the bowels. Too much of this type of fiber can lead to constipation, so you might want to be wary about your intake.
It is commonly found in the roughage that makes up most plant life, such as root vegetables, celery, fruits with edible seeds and whole wheat.
This type is very important for your large intestine and is largely ignored. Especially, when people talk about fiber as a dietary requirement. Without it, the food that comes in and out of our gut would be unchanged. With no nutrients getting absorbed in the body.
Fermentable fibers are what gut bacteria are able to digest and use as fuel. This increases the good bacteria in the gut. These bacteria are important for weight management, blood sugar control, immunity, brain function, and mental health.
People don’t talk about it as much because the gut microbiome and its relation to our health is a very recent discovery. The best whole food sources of fermentable fibers are found in beans and legumes.
The only downside of incorporating this type of fiber in your diet is the increase of gas or flatulence as a byproduct of the enzymes digesting that fiber.
Nutritionists and other medical fields are scratching the surface with what we know about nutrition today. While it may take some time for people to understand how fiber and other properties of whole foods are playing a role in our health, we are still learning every day. The more we learn, the better we can do! And there will be people to help you discover more and more about nutrition every day.