Sitting in the bathroom, you notice that your legs have gone numb again, but you still can't drop the kids off at the pool. If you have ever felt constipated or bloated, you may not be getting enough fiber in your diet.
There is a real problem with Americans having fiber intake deficiencies. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a study in 2014 which found that Americans get about two-thirds of the fiber intake recommended by doctors and nutritionists.
Beyond keeping your bowels regular, there are many reasons why proper fiber intake is good for you. Keep reading to learn some of the amazing health benefits of adding fiber to your diet.
1. Bloating and Constipation
As we mentioned, consuming the correct amount of fiber keeps you from feeling bloated or becoming constipated. But how does it work?
Some studies suggest that the fiber absorbs excess water from your digestion tract, which reduces the size of your stools and allows them to pass through. This is not 100% true.
Dry fiber would, in fact, absorb the water and make your stool drier, but that would make constipation worse. What you want for constipation is water-soluble fiber which becomes like a gel in the digestive tract and lubricates the stool. Insoluble fiber has the exact opposite effect, so you should consult a doctor before using any fiber to treat your issues.
2. Fiber Is a Weight Loss Booster
Dietary fiber is another kind found most often in food, but weight loss supplements often include it as well. You can lose weight using dietary fiber to reduce your weight in a natural way.
The fiber absorbs water in your stomach and remains there for a while. As the fiber sits in the stomach, it slows the absorption of nutrients and leads to a longer-lasting feeling of fullness. The longer you feel full, the less food you will eat, thus reducing the number of calories you consume.
Make sure to use soluble fiber for a weight loss boost, but remember that too much soluble fiber has a laxative effect. No one needs that kind of mess!
3. Helps Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
Diabetes is one of the most common diseases in the United States. Some people are born with diabetes (type 1) while others develop it later in life (type 2), but both types mean that your body does not process sugar as it should. Some people are choosing to ditch the expensive pills and insulin shots in favor of a diet change to manage their diabetes.
Studies show that high viscosity soluble fiber has the ability to reduce the intensity of blood sugar spikes after eating a carb-laden meal. What this means is, if you eat something with high viscosity soluble fiber before a meal with lots of carbs, your blood sugar levels will not get as high as if you were to eat the same meal without the added fiber.
Be cautious though. If you have blood sugar issues, you should not eat a plate full of spaghetti or a giant cupcake, even with high viscosity fiber in your system. But, having enough fiber in your gut means you won't need to panic and run to the hospital if you eat a single cookie.
It is not always easy to know which foods have high fiber content. Fiber is not something you can identify in a food item by sight. Check out this page for some of the food items with the highest fiber content.
4. Fiber Reduces the Risk of Colorectal Cancer
Of all the cancers that lead to death, colorectal cancer is the third most common. Studies are still going on, but some scientists believe that fiber keeps your colon healthy and less prone to developing cancer!
The difficult part about these studies is that it appears that there is a connection with a higher fiber diet and a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. But, the nutrients and vitamins found in the fruits and veggies that are also high in fiber could also be the reason for the reduced risk.
Until doctors find conclusive evidence, we see no harm in adding more fruits and veggies with high fiber content to your diet.
5. Fiber Is Good for You and Your Gut Health
Another benefit is that fiber helps promote probiotics in your stomach. It helps the probiotic "good" bacteria in your stomach by acting as a food source for it. After all, everything alive has to eat something to produce energy and continue living.
With the probiotic bacteria fed and protected in your tummy, it can spend its energy breaking down food for you and fending off bad gut bacteria.
6. Cholesterol Benefits
if you have problems controlling your cholesterol, you should up your fiber intake. In tandem with other cholesterol control methods, fiber can help reduce your total cholesterol and LDL levels.
In general, it's not super effective by itself. But, studies are finding that larger amounts of viscous soluble fiber show better results. One thing scientists can say is that high fiber intake reduces your risk of heart disease!
Live Your Healthiest Lifestyle
We hope knowing why fiber is so good for you motivates you to increase your intake. Keep in mind that while fiber supplement pills help increase your fiber levels, they are not as efficient as consuming high fiber foods. If you can't seem to consume enough fiber in your meals, then adding fiber supplements is your next best option.
Once your gut feels back to normal, keep up your fiber intake to ensure your gut health stays in tip-top shape! Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Paying attention to your nutrient intake is a great first step to living a healthy lifestyle. Check out the rest of our blog for more great information about how to live your healthiest lifestyle!
If you have more tips for increasing your fiber intake or more benefits you notice from it, please let us know!