Why Fiber is Important
Most of us know that fiber plays a significant role in maintaining excellent overall health, but we may not fully understand why. Dietary fiber
is comprised of all elements of plant foods that your body is unable to digest; it remains mostly solid as it passes through your body and out of your colon without being absorbed. According to the Mayo Clinic
, soluble fiber is able to dissolve and can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose, while insoluble fiber cannot dissolve and is the type of fiber that encourages healthy digestion and bowel movements. Diets rich with fiber can also help lower your risk of acquiring heart disease, metabolic syndrome and obesity, asserts the University of Maryland Medical Center
. If you're like most Americans, you probably aren't receiving enough fiber in your diet, and this can cause problems.
Signs Your Diet May Be Lacking Fiber
You're constipated or have irregular bowel movements.
The inability to go number two is one of the most obvious clues that you need to amp up your fiber intake. Since fiber remains mostly intact as it courses through your digestive tract, it plays a significant role in wiping out toxins from your body and bulking up your stool. Irregular bowel movements or constipation signify that your digestive tract is getting backed up with waste that needs to leave your body. Regularly experiencing constipation and inconsistent bowel movements can lead to conditions like hemmorhoids and diverticulosis, according to the Mayo Clinic
You're gaining weight and you're hungry all the time.
Cutting out unhealthy foods from your diet, reducing your portions and exercising regularly are great steps in promoting weight loss, but if you've done these and are still gaining weight, you might want to re-examine the contents of what you are consuming. A lack of fiber in your diet can cause you to experience more frequent hunger pangs, which might draw you to the kitchen for snacking in between meals or even overeating. High-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains can contribute to weight loss by helping you to stay full and satisfied for a longer period of time.
You feel tired, sluggish and nauseated.
If you've got a queasy feeling in your stomach and just can't seem to muster the energy to move your body, you might be dealing with a low-fiber intake. Louise Chang, M.D., asserts that
not receiving enough fiber in your diet and only taking in calories from high-protein and low-carbohydrate foods can cause your cholesterol to spike and your energy to dwindle, leaving you feeling as stagnant as a snail.
You have high blood sugar and/or cholesterol.
While there are many other reasons you could be seeing an increase in your blood sugar or cholesterol
, if you have the other symptoms on this list, you might want to start thinking about lack of fiber being a contributing factor. One aspect that can play a part in having high blood sugar or levels that drastically fluctuate is an absence of fiber in your daily nutrition. Fiber helps to maintain already-healthy blood sugar
levels by slowing the absorption of sugar, according to Louise Chang, M.D. The Mayo Clinic states that
soluble fiber can also help reduce your LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels by binding to cholesterol and fatty acids to encourage their elimination through your digestive tract and stool.
How to Increase Your Fiber Intake
While there may be other reasons that you experience the symptoms on this list, not associated with a low-fiber diet, it's important for you to first check with your doctor. Starting a high-fiber diet can be beneficial, and there are several significant foods that you can try adding to your nutritional rotation. To reach your daily goal of 20 to 35 grams of dietary fiber, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine
, try adding some beans, peas, barley, cornmeal and blackberries for starters. Whole grains, along with dark leafy greens, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, nuts, strawberries and many other fruits can also provide a powerful boost of beneficial fiber. While the most effective way to get your required helping of fiber is through foods, sometimes there is a need for fiber supplements. If you know there is no way you will be able to incorporate fiber-rich foods into your diet—because you have an aversion to fruits and veggies, or whatever reason—then a fiber supplement may be right for you. Supplements comprised of prebiotic ingredients like inulin and oligofructose can boost good bacteria growth and support your gastrointestinal health, while the fiber psyllium
can help treat irritable bowel syndrome and constipation, according to Brunilda Nazario, M.D.
Additionally, there are many other functional fibers that can provide positive effects for your health. Before you start taking a fiber supplement, talk to your licensed health care practitioner.
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