Fiber Is Good For Health

When it comes to maintaining a healthy diet, we often hear the advice to “eat more fiber.” It’s a common recommendation from doctors, nutritionists, and health experts. But have you ever wondered what exactly fiber is and why it’s so important? Let’s unravel the wonders of fiber and explore its numerous benefits for our overall well-being.

Fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, is a type of carbohydrate that our bodies cannot digest or absorb. Instead of being broken down and absorbed like other nutrients, fiber passes through the digestive system relatively intact. It is found abundantly in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

So, what does fiber actually do? Let’s delve into its remarkable functions and benefits:

  1. Promotes Healthy Digestion: One of the primary roles of fiber is to support proper digestion. It adds bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass through the intestines and prevent constipation. Fiber also helps regulate bowel movements, reducing the risk of gastrointestinal disorders like hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  2. Manages Weight: If you’re aiming to maintain a healthy weight or shed a few pounds, fiber can be your ally. High-fiber foods are generally more filling and take longer to chew, which can help control appetite and prevent overeating. Fiber-rich foods also tend to be lower in calories, making them an excellent choice for weight management.
  3. Controls Blood Sugar Levels: Fiber plays a crucial role in managing blood sugar levels, particularly for individuals with diabetes. Soluble fiber, found in foods like oats, legumes, and fruits, forms a gel-like substance in the digestive system that slows down the absorption of glucose. This helps prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar, promoting stable levels and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  4. Supports Heart Health: Numerous studies have shown that a high-fiber diet can significantly lower the risk of heart disease. Soluble fiber helps reduce LDL cholesterol, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol, by binding to it and aiding its elimination from the body. By maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, fiber helps protect against conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes.
  5. Enhances Gut Health: Our gut is home to trillions of beneficial bacteria, collectively known as the gut microbiota. Fiber acts as a prebiotic, providing nourishment for these beneficial bacteria. By fermenting fiber in the colon, these bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids, which provide energy to the cells lining the colon and promote a healthy gut environment. A well-balanced gut microbiota is associated with improved immunity, reduced inflammation, and a lower risk of gastrointestinal disorders.
  6. Reduces the Risk of Chronic Diseases: A fiber-rich diet has been linked to a decreased risk of various chronic diseases, including certain types of cancer (such as colorectal cancer), stroke, high blood pressure, and obesity. The exact mechanisms are still being researched, but it is believed that the combined effects of fiber’s impact on digestion, blood sugar, cholesterol, and gut health contribute to these protective benefits.

Now that we understand the many benefits of fiber, how can we incorporate more of it into our daily diet? Here are some practical tips:

  • Increase your intake of whole fruits, vegetables, and their skins.
  • Choose whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread.
  • Incorporate legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans into your meals.
  • Snack on nuts and seeds.
  • Replace refined grains with their whole grain counterparts.
  • Gradually increase your fiber intake to allow your digestive system to adjust.

It’s worth noting that while fiber offers numerous health benefits, it’s essential to increase your fiber intake gradually and drink plenty of water alongside it. Sudden and excessive fiber consumption can lead to bloating, gas, or even constipation if not accompanied by adequate hydration.

The recommendation to “eat more fiber” is not just a passing trend but a scientifically-backed strategy for improving our overall health. From supporting digestion and managing weight to reducing the risk of chronic diseases, fiber plays a vital role in our well-being. So, let’s embrace the wonders of fiber and make conscious choices to incorporate more of it into our diets. Your body will thank you for it!

Eat more fiber’ is a common medical recommendation, but what does fiber actually do?

Daryl Austin


If you’re like many Americans, you’ve probably been admonished by your doctor to eat more fiber. And you’ve likely also seen countless brands touting their product as a “great source for fiber” when you visit the cereal aisle of the grocery store. Such admonitions and marketing is great, in this case, because the American Society for Nutrition says that only 7% of U.S. adults are getting enough fiber − meaning the majority of us are at greater risk of chronic conditions including heart disease and diabetes.

While adults and kids need at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber daily, most Americans only get about 15 grams a day. One of the reasons experts say many aren’t getting enough fiber is because a lot of people don’t understand what fiber is, why it’s important and what the nutrient actually does for the body. 

What is fiber?

Dietary fiber, also called roughage or bulk, is a carbohydrate that helps the body with digestion and the regulation of how sugar is processed and used. While most carbs are broken down into glucose and then converted to energy, fiber cannot be broken down and instead passes through the body relatively intact.

Another thing that makes the nutrient unique is that there are different forms of fiber in a variety of foods. “Dietary fiber is not just one thing, it’s a family of different types of carbohydrates… and no single kind of fiber does it all,” says Karen Collins, MS, a registered dietitian and nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research. The main two varieties of fiber include soluble fiber that dissolves in water, and insoluble fiber that cannot. Each are important for health and wellbeing.

What does fiber do for the body?

Fiber has multiple functions and soluble fiber and insoluble fiber each have their own purposes. Soluble fiber helps lower one’s cholesterol and one’s glucose levels. Insoluble fiber helps move food through one’s digestive system, promoting regular bowel movements.

But dietary fiber’s health benefits go beyond that. “Most people think of fiber as a way to prevent constipation, but it does so much more,” explains Josh Redd, NMD, the founder of RedRiver Health and Wellness and author of “The Truth About Low Thyroid.” “It also helps control blood sugar levels, supports heart health and aids in weight management.” He explains that another of fiber’s most critical roles is that it helps “dampen inflammation by improving gut microbiome health.” Inflammation has been tied to a host of physical and mental health conditions including tissue damage, anxiety, and depression.

What’s more, prebiotics − a form of soluble fiber − “serve as food for the good bacteria in the gut,” Redd says. Such bacteria produces “short-chain fatty acids which nourish cells that line the colon and regulate immunity.”

Collins says that fiber is essential in keeping one’s body running as it should, in part, because the foods that supply dietary fiber also supply “lots of other nutrients and plant compounds that all work together to support health and reduce risk of our most common chronic diseases.”

She says such a combination of nutrients have many advantages including lowering one’s risk of cardiovascular disease by “helping to keep cholesterol and blood pressure in a healthy range,” plus lowering one’s risk of type 2 diabetes (“studies consistently tie diets higher in fiber with lower risk of diabetes,” she says), and also reducing one’s risk of cancer. “The American Institute for Cancer Research grades evidence strong that dietary fiber reduces risk of colorectal cancer, which for both men and women in the U.S. is the third most common cancer,” Collins explains.

Can fiber help you lose weight?

Beyond such benefits, fiber has also been tied to weight management by regulating the body’s use of sugars and by keeping hunger pangs down. “Some studies suggest that higher dietary fiber may also influence gut hormones that affect appetite regulation,” says Collins. “Foods high in fiber also tend to be less concentrated in calories, so you can eat filling portions with fewer calories,” she adds.

Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Team at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, explains that fiber-rich foods also help with healthy weight management, “due to the satiety factor” of the carbohydrate helping one feel full after a meal. She says the nutrient slows the rate of digestion and the rate of glucose absorption, and that “dietary patterns relying on a variety of fiber-rich foods are less likely to contain quickly digested and calorie-dense foods.”

Perhaps the best news of all, Collins says, is that reaping the benefits of including fiber in one’s diet doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” approach. “Each increase in daily fiber consumption helps,” she says.