Found naturally in foods derived from plants, fiber is the portion of the plant that our bodies cannot digest. Thus, it is neither a source of calories for energy nor nutrients for cells.
Still, it’s an important part of any diet and most Americans are not getting enough.
But, it’s important to understand that not all fiber is created equal. DIETARY FIBER (bulk or roughage that we eat) is classified as either soluble - dissolves in water - or insoluble, which doesn’t dissolve. This is not the same as FUNCTIONAL FIBER, which is natural, but extracted and isolated from whole foods, then added to supplements and processed foods to increase fiber content. This latter type, while natural, should not be a primary source of dietary fiber. Let’s discuss these different fiber types, and how they affect your health.
First, there’s soluble fiber. Found in many fruits and vegetables, it blends with water in the gut to form a gel-like material and facilitate the movement of food through the GI tract for optimal digestion, enhanced nutrient absorption and overall gut health. Soluble fiber has a role in blood sugar regulation, helping to improve blood sugar levels and minimize insulin spikes that can lead to fat storage; also balance energy. It adds bulk, which helps keep you feeling fuller for longer, staves off ravenous hunger and insatiable cravings. By reducing your appetite in this way, it can help you eat less overall and lose weight; or promote healthy weight maintenance. It can also help lower blood cholesterol by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol.
And then, there’s insoluble fiber, which does not blend with water in the gut, increases stool bulk and tends to pass straight through. This attribute can help it move certain foods through at a greater speed, promoting regularity and preventing constipation. It is this laxative effect that makes insoluble fiber a component of many laxative agents to help relieve constipation.
If you suspect you’re not getting enough, here are a few good choices to boost your fiber intake:
- Quality whole grains (e.g. organic oats*)
- Fruits (e.g. coconut - found in SIGBU and BIYU)
- Beans, peas and other legumes (e.g. carob - found in NEGU and SIGBU)
- Nuts (e.g. almonds*) and seeds
* Found in all the best tasting Vukoo protein bars
Or, snag the benefits of real food fuel in the convenience of bar form by incorporating Vukoo protein bar into your eating day - BIYU, NEGU, SIGBU or all three! All pack a whopping 10+ grams of fat-burning fiber per bar, and go where you go - car, bag, work, travel, leisure, even home - and are a delectable, nutrient-dense addition to any healthy lifestyle.
Aim to get your fiber from real, whole foods as the more refined or processed a food becomes (think products you’d find on the shelf), the lower its fiber content tends to be. Functional fiber (e.g. fiber supplements and fiber-enriched foods) does not provide the variety of fibers, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients that real food provides. Note that daily fiber intake is a good overall gauge of diet quality because if you’re not getting enough of it, chances are you may be lacking in other essential nutrients.
**Quick tip: Increase fiber gradually and with plenty of fluids (it works best when it absorbs water, like a sponge), to allow your gut bacteria to adjust. Adding too much fiber too quickly can lead to gas, bloating and cramps; even nausea and constipation.
So, to recap:
Fiber is an integral part of a healthy diet. Beyond its implications for digestive health, fiber-containing foods have a role in healthy weight maintenance, can lower cholesterol and your risk for chronic disease including diabetes and heart disease. These heart-health benefits may also include, for example, reduced blood pressure and inflammation. While most plant-based foods contain both fiber types, the amount of each varies across foods so nutritional variety is important to achieve an array of health benefits; also to satisfy the tastebuds.
"Fill Up On Fiber"; by Vukoo®