Dietary fiber. I know… even writing this – possibly two of THE unsexiest words out there… 🤣. But they are so mighty and big for our gut health! Fiber is one of those much loved and time-and-time again discussed topics on Life & Lemons. Why? Because it is so beneficial for our health. Just a quick note – dietary fiber can either be soluble and insoluble fiber. I will explain the difference between the two further below. By the way – the pictures for this post are just a “fun” shoot of things I had in my cupboard that contain dietary fiber.
What is Dietary Fiber?
Basically, it is “roughage” in food. Whereas there is not a totally clear and universal definition on it, many agree on the following. Carbohydrates (and some other substances) are derived from plants that are not digested and cannot be absorbed by our gut. Interestingly, dietary fiber was not seen as something beneficial or good for us until the 1970s. That year, two British scientists proposed that fiber might actually be helpful and could potentially prevent type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. Today, we know that fiber increases the water content, volume, and weight of our stool and it can have a range of amazing health benefits.
Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber
Fiber is amazing because it can alter gut functioning. The actual, physiological effects depend on the properties of the fiber, as well as the plant cell wall structure. These effects may be: How quickly (or slowly) your food travels down your digestive rate, how quickly your stomach empties, how many nutrients are digested and absorbed, and everything in between – from fermentation, laxation, binding of mucus, enzymes, hormones, and metabolites.
In addition, fiber can lower your blood pressure levels. It also allows your blood glucose levels to rise more steadily after eating. They may also lower glucose and insulin levels. Fiber can also have a very positive effect on your “bad” cholesterol levels by lowering them (by binding cholesterol and then eliminating it through the colon). At the same, it can increase the “good” cholesterol levels. Basically, fiber has a very positive effect on our metabolism and has been shown to reduce typical Western disease-relating factors. Not too bad for something that was reserved as animal food before said British scientist’s discovery 🤣.
What Is The Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber?
Both fibers are usually present in most wholegrains, fruits, and vegetables. Each fruit/nut/vegetable tends to have different ratios of both fibers though.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and turns into a gel-like mush (think of it like adding milk to oatmeal). It is also the part that is responsible for the cholesterol benefits described above. Due to soluble fiber soaking up water, it helps to bulk your stool and allows for easy elimination, as well as reducing the risk of constipation and diarrhea.
Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water (to come back to our example above – think about adding milk to celerey or kohlrabi 🤣). It can usually be found in the outer husks or peels of nuts, seeds, and fruits. Insoluble fiber also promotes healthy bowel movements and can reduce constipation.
There Is Still a Lot to Learn About Dietary Fiber
Whereas the research is mighty impressive on dietary fiber, there is still a lot that we actually do not know. For example, the structure of the plant cell wall has not been fully researched yet. It is also not yet understood what exactly happens whilst we are chewing. And whilst the fiber is moving through our digestive tract. The microbiome (= the genetic material of microbes in our body) is also a very recent field of research. As said above, there is still a lot more to explore and I am excited to see what’s to come in the next few years!
How Can I Add More Dietary Fiber To My Diet?
Fiber is in a variety of products – and as with everything – abundance and variety are key!! You can find fiber in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, as well as beans and pulses. The fact that you are here is a likely indicator that you are already receiving a lot of health benefits from plants in your diet 😉🥰.
And that is it for our excursion on dietary fiber! I was so fascinated by having all the benefits of fiber that I wanted to share them with you straight away 🤗. I hope you enjoyed this excursion into dietary fiber 💕.