You’ve probably seen or heard it before: We should eat more fiber. But What’s All the Fuss About Fiber? We’re taking a little dive into the land of nutrition today and talking all things fiber and your health.
What IS fiber anyway?
Dietary fiber comes from plants. Fiber is a carbohydrate that is comprised of the parts of some plants that your body can’t completely digest. It comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Both have benefits for your overall health and are easily incorporated into a balanced, plant forward diet.
Soluble vs. Insoluble
Soluble fiber is the kind of dietary fiber that absorbs water in the digestive tract. As it absorbs that water, it swells and forms a gel like substance that researchers believe has a myriad of health benefits. It slows digestion, helping to regulate blood sugars AND keep you full. It has also been found to bind cholesterol and fatty acids, helping your body to excrete more of the dietary fat and cholesterol, thereby lowering cholesterol and decreasing heart disease risk.
Soluble fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. One of the best sources of soluble fiber is black beans. With approximately 15 total grams and nearly 5 grams of soluble fiber in each cup, these inexpensive beans are a nutritional winner. Our Instant Pot Chipotle Black Bean Soup (pictured above) is an easy way to pack more fiber into your diet.
Insoluble fiber is the type of fiber that passes through the digestive system largely intact. It helps to bulk up your stools and avoid constipation. It is found in most vegetables, whole grains, beans, and lentils.
All The Fuss About Fiber
Ok, let’s get our science hats on for a bit. Dietary fiber and its impact on health has been well studied and the benefits of a diet high in fiber are truly impressive. There’s a lot of fuss about fiber for a good reason: there is great science to back it up. One of the best and most respected medical journals in the world, The Lancet, published a paper in January 2019 that compiled data from over 200 studies (and including over 4,000 patients) demonstrating that dietary fiber consumption is association with decreased risk of dying from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Furthermore, the data analysis revealed a more than 20 percent risk reduction in all-cause mortality for people with the highest levels of dietary fiber intake. The greatest risk reduction was found when people consumed between 25 and 29 grams of fiber daily.
An emerging field of research is also looking at the relationship between dietary fiber and our gut microbiome. Put very simply, a diet high in fiber helps to feed the important bacteria living in our gut. When the bacteria feeds on that fiber, it helps to keep our digestive tract mucus lining intact. Among other things, this likely provides protection from invasive or bad bacteria and even results in decreased chronic inflammation throughout the body, potentially reducing rates of things like heart disease, autoimmune/inflammatory illnesses, and even arthritis. (Side note: Lane and I were lucky to recently hear Justin Sonnenburg, a Stanford researcher doing incredible work in this area, speak at a conference and I can’t wait to see where this research goes.)
It is currently estimated that most Americans consume less than half of the recommended amount of fiber each day. Most nutrition guidelines now recommend between 25-30 grams of daily fiber for average adult (Please check with your doctor about appropriate individual levels).
Fiber Rich Foods & Recipes
Now that you know a little more about all the fuss about fiber, how do you easily increase your intake to reap all of those benefits? While fiber supplements are available, most of the research shows that real, food-based sources are most beneficial. Thankfully, dietary fiber is found in tons of yummy things!
Fruits and vegetables are a great place to start when adding fiber to your diet. Raspberries pack a whopping 8 gram per cup! Other high fiber fruits include apples, pears, and strawberries. Broccoli (5 grams per cup), brussels sprouts, and sweet potatoes are veggies filled with fiber. Oats and whole grains are ways to add to your diet. If you really want to up the fiber, add some legumes or seeds into your meals. A cup of quinoa contains over 15 grams of fiber and 1 ounce of chia seeds, like in our Pineapple Mango Chia Pudding, has 10 grams of fiber! Here’s a great chart with information on high fiber foods.
Recipes With More Fiber
Many of the recipes we have featured here on With Two Spoons will help you get to your daily fiber goals. Here are a few more of our favorites:
Healthy Lentil Vegetable Soup
Apple Brussels Sprouts Salad
Simple Lentil Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables
Lemon Rosemary White Bean Dip
Cranberry Orange Baked Oatmeal Cups
Citrus Kissed Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Looking for more info on health and nutrition topics? Let us know what you want to learn more about here at With Two Spoons. You can find us by email or on all major social media channels. Happy cooking!
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Please consult your physician for specific information regarding your health and dietary needs.