Fascinating Facts About Fabulous Fiber

Fascinating Facts About Fabulous Fiber

By Laurie Lyon

It’s true: Some of us have heard about dietary fiber so often that we’ve simply tuned it out as a humdrum element of our food. But there’s peril in our indifference. Indeed, most Americans consume only half the recommended amount of fiber per day. That’s a big mistake!

Fiber in its various forms—soluble and insoluble—is found in plant foods including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Animal products, on the other hand, contain no fiber at all.

Most people know fiber as something that keeps you regular, but outside of that, fiber packs a boatload of other health benefits. Let’s look at some of them:

  1. Soluble fiber regulates how your body processes blood sugar—in a good way! This is one of fiber’s most winning characteristics, and it can be a tremendous help for those with diabetes and prediabetes—in other words, most Americans—to manage their glycemic challenges by preventing or minimizing blood sugar spikes.1 To maximize this benefit, include rich sources of soluble fiber such as beans, peas, flax seeds, apples, avocados, barley, oats, Brussels sprouts, citrus fruit, carrots, and berries in your regular diet.

  2. Higher fiber intake appears to provide, at least for some, a measure of defense against Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.2 Since dementia is often related to insulin resistance (to which blood sugar spikes contribute), it makes sense that adequate fiber can add a level of protection.

  3. Fiber feeds and supercharges your gut microbiome, which results in a boost to your immune system. Fiber is transformed by some microbes into short-chain fatty acids; research has shown these can, in turn, activate immune cells that aid in warding off a wide variety of diseases.3

  4. Regular use of whole cereal grains reduces inflammation in the body, which helps you avoid chronic diseases that are fueled by inflammation, such as some cancers and cardiovascular disease.4

  5. The soluble form of fiber is adept at lowering cholesterol. You can even target LDL, the “bad” form of cholesterol that clogs arteries, by consuming oatmeal. Oats contain beta-glucan, which is especially effective at disposing LDL, thereby lowering your risk of heart attack and stroke. Barley, yeast, and even mushrooms are additional sources of beta-glucan.

While supplements containing fiber extracted from plant foods can sometimes help with particular needs, it’s generally best to obtain your fiber directly from whole-plant foods. That way, you get not only the fiber but also the antioxidants and other plant components that benefit you most as they work in unison.

In His wisdom, God provided humans with an original diet rich in fiber. “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food” (Genesis 1:29). Let’s take advantage of the bountiful, health-promoting—and delicious—fiber sources He has graciously given us! 

1 https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/role-of-fiber.html

2 https://www.alzinfo.org/articles/prevention/fiber-as-brain-food/

3 https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity

4 https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/news/not-all-dietary-fiber-created-equal-cereal-fiber-linked-lower-inflammation

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