Eating healthy can be a process from start to finish. There’s a lot that goes into choosing the right foods to put in our bodies. Even in moderation some foods that are good in one aspect may need to be limited in another. In navigating the food we eat, there are plenty of guidelines to follow. For example, there are macronutrients like protein and fats, and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. All of which are key for good health!
Fiber, Fiber, Fiber
Where does dietary fiber fall? Dietary Fiber is actually a complex carbohydrate composed of sugars. It can be classified as insoluble or soluble, depending on its ability to be absorbed in the body. Carbohydrates also fall into two categories of complex and simple carbs. While dietary fiber is a complex carb, Americans generally consume more refined grains and other simple carbs in our diets. So is fiber important? This question can be answered in terms of its benefits and in terms of the consequences of low intake.
Fiber works in our digestive system to regulate the absorption of other nutrients that would be broken down during digestion. It is generally recommended that both children and adults get 20-30 grams of fiber a day. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (all of which are high in fiber) is a great way to get the daily amount of fiber needed. Foods such as whole grain bread or wheat bran, blueberries, and split peas all boast high amounts of fiber. If the recommended amount is about 30 grams per day, a serving of Fiber One bran cereal with a cup of blueberries gets you about 22 grams for breakfast. All you need is a serving of split peas with dinner to reach your daily total.
The development of several chronic diseases could develop across the lifespan from chronically low fiber intake. Heart disease, which is known to be the number one cause of death in America, has been shown to be reduced by 40% by consuming a diet high in fiber. Type 2 diabetes in another chronic disease affected by fiber intake. A study done with African American women showed a higher incidence of type 2 diabetes if they also had a diet low in cereal fiber and high in high glycemic index foods. Furthermore, a study done by Harvard showed a 40% decrease in those with intestinal inflammation if they followed high fiber diets.
Even though fiber may appear to be a small part of our diet, it does more for us than we may realize. Generally, a few days of low fiber intake isn’t going to mess anything up, but continued duration of low fiber intake can cause a multitude of different health problems later in life. Leading a healthier lifestyle starts with a good foundation, and fiber is another beneficial and essential building block we must pay attention to create a balanced and sustainable diet.
Written by GUADS staff member Meghan with contributions from: