Fiber has come a long way, and not just through our intestines (ha—we can’t resist a little nerdy nutrition humor). We used to categorize fiber into two neat categories: soluble and insoluble. But the fiber picture is a little more complicated and interesting than that. Here’s what you need to know:
- What is fiber?
- Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. Though most carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules, fiber cannot be digested this same way; instead it passes through the body undigested, bulking up the stool, softening it and helping it pass easily—pulling with it toxins, excess cholesterol, fat, hormones, and waste.
- The recommended amounts of fiber is 38 grams per day for men, 25 grams for women. But, it helps to know what it is, so you can plan to get more of it into your diet—especially since most people are only eating about half of the recommended amounts per day.
- What are the different types of fiber?
- Soluble fiber
- Soluble fiber attracts water & turns to gel during digestion. This slows digestion. It changes as it goes through the digestive tract where it is fermented by bacteria
- Some types of soluble fiber may help lower risk of heart disease
- soluble fiber boosts the population of good bacteria in the gut, which is linked to improved immunity, anti-inflammatory effects, and even enhanced mood
- Makes you feel full for a longer amount of time
- Oat bran
- Citrus fruits
- Beta glucans
- Insoluble fiber
- Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. As it goes through the digestive tract, it does not change its form. It can also be fermented by bacteria in the colon. It also adds bulk to the stool and appears to help food pass more quickly through the stomach & intestines
- Insoluble fiber helps speed up the transit of food in the digestive tract and helps prevent constipation
- specifically in the stalks, skins, and seeds of fruits & veggies
- Wheat bran
- Whole grains
- Fermentable fiber
- People are talking about fermentable fiber these days—bacteria in your gut gets a big boost from fermentable fiber. This produces short-chain fatty acids like butyrate and acetate which increases gut health and is super anti-inflammatory. Most fermentable fibers are soluble, but some are also insoluble. These fibers include beans and legumes (the best natural source) pectins, guar gum and inulin. If you’re not used to eating a lot of fiber, go slowly with these sources, as they can cause some gas and bloating initially in some people.
- Resistant starch
- Resistant starch is similar to fiber and acts similarly, but is slightly different. Since it’s not fully broken down in your small intestine, the bacteria in your digestive tract love it. It also produces those short-chain fatty acids we discussed above. Sometimes they can cause bloating because they also create gasses, but they have lots of health benefits, including improving insulin sensitivity, helping manage blood sugar levels, reducing appetite and supporting the health of the digestive system. Resistant starch—this third type of fiber combines the best of the insoluble and soluble fibers, boosting the proliferation of beneficial bacteria in the gut and
- Soluble fiber
There’s also a category of fiber called functional fiber, which is derived from whole foods and fortified to make processed food a bit healthier. It’s always ideal to get fiber from whole foods sources whenever possible.
- What are the benefits of fiber?
- Fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check
- It passes through the body undigested, keeping your digestive system clean and healthy, easing bowel movements, and flushing cholesterol and harmful carcinogens out of the body
- Protection against heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels
- Improved gastrointestinal health
- Fiber promotes regular bowel movements & prevents constipation
- It may also reduce the risk of developing colitis & hemorrhoids
- My help reduce the risk of colon cancer
- People with diabetes who consume a lot of fiber tend to need less insulin than those whose fiber intake is low
- Fiber can help slow the absorption of sugar, helping to prevent spikes after meals
Some of our favorite fibers (in addition to fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes and beans):
Paleo Fiber —This blend contains 12 different fibers (like guar gum, cranberry seed, psyllium husk, flax and prune) that are a mix of soluble and insoluble fibers. Acacia gum also acts as a prebiotic that help our bodies produce more “good” bacteria in our gut. Paleo Fiber works to support appetite regulation, promotes intestinal function and bowel movement, maintains healthy cholesterol numbers, assists in the body’s detoxification process, and more. It’s also free of grains, phytates and lectins, so it doesn’t interfere with the absorption of minerals and other nutrients.
Paleo Fiber RS—This fiber blend contains two forms of resistant starch: organic green banana flour and organic potato starch powder. Resistant starches are “resistant” to digestion and once it reaches the large intestine it is fermented into short chain fatty acids, which supports intestinal health in a number of ways. Resistant starch can help balance bacteria in the gut as well as intestinal permeability, helping to keep the digestive tract lining intact. This formulation can also contribute to blood sugar balance, heart health and appetite regulation.
Digestion Plus—This product is interesting because it contains 10 grams of fiber per serving (coming more from soluble fiber and some insoluble fiber) coming from many whole foods sources, in addition to digestive enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics for comprehensive gut support. This may help with both constipation and diarrhea or loose stools, keeping you satisfied and fuller longer, and cholesterol management.