Fiber is quite the trend right now as more dieticians, nutritionists and fitness experts push the importance of adding it to your diet. While we have all seen and heard bits and pieces about fiber, what do we actually know about it?
To give you a brief history of fiber, our ancestors digested more fiber in which we do now because it was more manually labor intensive than technology driven. As technology advanced, equipment made it possible to remove the inedible portions at a faster rate and made it possible to strip grains of their nutrients and leave an enriched, sifted, white flour. This was flour created soft white bread and became the trend for those who could afford it. Just as soft, white bread became the bread of choice over course, brown bread, white rice underwent the same processes and was chosen over brown rice.
In the late 1940s, it became apparent that enriching these products was eliminating the nutritional value so manufacturers began adding in removed nutrients such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, iron, bran and germ. Enriched products became fortified with folic acid in the 1990s. The American Dietetic Association continues to report “whole grain products along with fiber rich foods –vegetables, fruits, and legumes are “in” again” and it is suggested that half of your grains whole. (American Dietetic Association, 2006).
Why Is Fiber So Important?
Fiber contains chains of sugars that cannot be digested in the human body into simple sugar. Human digestive enzymes are not able to break fiber into units small enough for absorption and this is why it does not convert into energy or calories. In a short, sweet statement, fiber is expelled not absorbed or stored. Meaning, it makes you regular. In the simplest of terms, you are going to poop.
There are two types of fiber. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water but is able to hold onto water. They are responsible for moving waste through the intestinal tract without being broken down. Soluble fiber dissolves and becomes “gummy” and binds to fatty substances promoting their excretion as waste.
Fiber prevents constipation, hemorrhoids and diverticulosis by holding on to water and helping to soften and add bulk to waste in the intestines. This allows stools to pass through the intestinal tract regularly.
How Does Fiber Help With Weight Loss?
Fiber rich foods are lower in calories fat, and added sugars and are considered to be energy dense (American Dietetic Association). According to the ADA, because fiber rich foods take longer to chew, they may help slow your eating down so that you eat less because you feel full sooner. The ADA also reports that fiber cannot be fattening or provide calories because it cannot be digested.
How Much Fiber?
The Institute of Medicine advises the following:
Men (up to 50 years old)
38 grams daily
Women (up to 50 years old)
25 grams daily
Men (51 and up)
30 grams daily
Women (51 and up)
21 grams daily
Larson Duyff, R. (2006) American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. Chapter 6.