Four Questions and Answers About Fiber

by Melissa Chichester

When you think of fiber, you might immediately think of a bland breakfast cereal or prune juice.

Sure, it’s not as alluring as the superfood mighty moringa and it doesn’t remind anyone of a tropical vacation the way coconut oil does instantly. But our old friend fiber is actually one of the most important nutrients the body needs for daily health – and that’s why it is such a standby in medicine cabinets everywhere.

The truth is, whether young or old, you need fiber to carry out some of your body’s most essential functions. Let’s take a look at some of the incredible benefits of fiber. 

What is fiber?

Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down by human enzymes. It is also known as plant roughage or bulk. The term “dietary fiber” specifically refers to the parts of plant-based foods that we cannot break down. 

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both types are needed by good gut bacteria. They also both support smooth and regular digestion.* Soluble fiber helps soften stools and draws water to the gut, helping you feel full. Soluble fiber also dissolves in water and is transformed into a gel-like substance in the gut. 

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water or digestive fluids. Instead, it moves through the digestive tract undigested. It helps speed waste production up so it can exit your body and reduce constipation.* Insoluble fiber also collects other digestive byproducts that form stools, helping your body process waste. 

Both types of fiber can only be found in plant foods, which is one of many reasons it is so essential to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables! 

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What are the benefits of fiber? 

In 2017, the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine reported that an incredible 95% of American children and adults do not meet the daily recommended intake for fiber. Unfortunately, this is an issue because fiber has many health benefits. 

Fiber’s primary responsibility is adding bulk to the digestive system to keep waste moving regularly.*

However, fiber is involved in many other important functions, including: 

  • Diets rich in fiber support a healthier heart*
  • Fiber helps maintain blood sugar levels already within a normal range*
  • Fiber supports colon health* 
  • Fiber helps you stay full longer 

What foods are high in fiber? 

If you struggle with getting enough fiber into your diet, there are many fruits, vegetables, and legumes that are rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber. These foods include:

  • Beans and lentils 
  • Berries 
  • Leafy greens 
  • Apples 
  • Pears
  • Peas
  • Broccoli 
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Potatoes
  • Chia seeds

Grains are also high in fiber, including:

  • Barley
  • Oatmeal 
  • Whole-grain breads 
  • Enriched cereals 

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What supplements contain fiber? 

To increase your daily fiber intake, supplements can help in addition to eating a nutritious diet that contains fiber-rich foods. 

Fiber supplements include:

Most traditional fiber supplements are made with psyllium husk seeds or psyllium husk seed powder. 

Psyllium comes from the Plantago ovata and is also known as desert Indianwheat, as India grows 85% of psyllium on the market, according to Medical and Healthcare Textiles. Native to the Mediterranean, psyllium comes from the Greek word “psulla,” which actually means flea. This is because the seed clusters look like flea clusters. 

In the United States, psyllium was discovered by John Harvey Kellogg (yes, of the famous cereal you know and love). Kellogg found psyllium on a trip to Sicily and began to sell it at the Battle Creek Sanitarium – a world-famous, sprawling health resort that was able to accommodate more than 1,300 guests at a time. Psyllium husks were rediscovered in the natural foods market in the 1970s, and they have been a staple ever since. 

Fiber is one of the most important nutrients for digestion that helps maintain healthy functioning of your digestive tract.* Always speak with your healthcare practitioner before using a new fiber supplement to determine what supplement and dose is right for you.