Fiber is a non-nutrient due to the fact that it is not absorbed by a person’s body. A non-nutrient is classified as something that does not contain any caloric or nutritional value, but that does not mean they are not beneficial to your health in some way. Fiber is no exception.
Insoluble fiber dissolves into water and is best known for stabilizing levels of cholesterol and glucose, whereas soluble fiber does not dissolve into water and is best known to help the digestive process. Fiber is known for its digestive health benefits, but its potential positive impact extends beyond our digestive system.
The Benefits of Fiber on The Digestive Process
First, let’s dive into how fiber can impact the digestive process. Fiber helps to bulk up your stool while simultaneously softening your stool, which minimizes your chances of experiencing issues such as diarrhea and constipation. Irregular bowel movements can negatively impact your daily life, so incorporating fibrous foods can truly make all the difference.
Stool that lingers too long in our digestive tract due to constipation can start to stick together and cause a blockage that will negatively impact your overall digestion. Since fiber encourages bowel movements, it significantly decreases the amount of time that your stool is staying in your digestive tract.
Fiber also contains a molecule called acetate that is released in our digestive tract when we ingest fibrous foods. This molecule triggers our body into feeling satisfied. Overeating can cause a load of digestive issues such as abdominal pain and bloating, so including fibrous foods into your meals can decrease your chances of overeating due to the appetite-suppressive signals it sends to your body.
It is important to note that moderation is key when it comes to fiber intake. Consuming too much fiber can actually cause digestive issues rather than improving them. Bloating, diarrhea, and constipation are all symptoms that can occur from fiber overload. One of the reasons this happens is, because fiber takes out water in our bodies when it is ingested, and too much fiber can cause dehydration which triggers the digestive ailments.
Due to this revelation, fiber should not be considered a be all, end all for digestive complications. Instead, ensure you are following other digestive friendly habits such as staying hydrated, taking your probiotic supplements, a supplement that helps with bloating, and one with gut health enzymes.
Additional Benefits of Fiber Beyond Improving Our Digestive Process
We have compiled a list of additional benefits that fiber has to offer just in case the potential digestive benefits still does not have you convinced.
- May Stabilize High Blood Pressure - Some of the nutrients found in fiber are known to transform into compounds, when ingested, that help to lower a person’s blood pressure. A decent proportion of the population struggles with high blood pressure every single day, and potentially can see benefits when increasing their fiber intake. While it should not be considered a quick fix, the power of fiber on blood pressure should not be overlooked.
- May Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels - Due to its non-nutrient properties, fiber is a great way to avoid impacting your blood sugar levels. Since fiber is not absorbed or broken down by your body, unlike other foods, it cannot impact your blood sugar levels.
- May Improve Cholesterol Issues - Soluble fiber in specific traps cholesterol when it enters your digestive tract. This can lower the amount of cholesterol that enters your bloodstream, and instead it leaves the body through stool. Cholesterol is incredibly important for our overall health, but an overload of cholesterol can cause negative effects.
- Increase Diversity in Meals - Adding different types of fibrous foods to your meals increases the diversity of the foods that you are nourishing your body with. Diversity is incredibly vital in maintaining a healthy gut, and in turn a happy you. Have you ever heard the term ‘you are what you eat’? The foods we consume truly do impact how the different systems in our bodies work, how our brains feel, and even our energy levels. Fiber is just another stepping stone in increasing nutrient diversity.
Foods That Contain Fiber and How To Incorporate It Into Your Routine
Now that you know all the benefits of fiber, you are probably wondering which foods actually contain these beneficial substances. Below, there is a list of both soluble and insoluble fibrous foods to help you best navigate the different foods you can add to your meals. We also added a dinner meal idea that promotes fiber and nutrition intake.
Foods Containing Soluble Fibers
- black beans
- sunflower seeds
Foods Containing Insoluble Fibers
- brown rice
- green beans
- peanut butter
Some of these foods contain both insoluble and soluble fiber.
Chicken Spinach Nectarine Salad
- This meal is both light and refreshing, which is perfect for the springtime!
Ingredients (servings 2)
- 2 chicken breasts
- ⅛ cup of sliced white onion
- 3 cups of baby spinach
- 1 cup of spring mix
- 1 sliced nectarine
- ¼ cup of sunflower seeds
- shredded parmesan to taste
for the dressing:
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- ½ tablespoon of red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- garlic powder to taste
This meal comes together so quickly, making it a wonderful choice for a weeknight dinner.
- Season and cook your chicken breasts on a pan to your liking
- While your chicken is cooking, slice your onion and nectarine.
- In a bowl, create your dressing by mixing all of the ingredients above.
- When your chicken is ready, let it rest for a couple of minutes while you get the base of your salad ready.
- To get your salad ready, throw your spinach and spring mix together, then top with all of the remaining ingredients: white onion, nectarine, sunflower seeds.
- Then, cut up your chicken into thin slices and add it to your salad.
- Lastly, top your salad with shredded parmesan cheese
We hope we inspired you to include more fiber into your diet for both the digestive and general health benefits it has to offer!