Gut Health: What is fiber and why is it important?

Gut Health: What is fiber and why is it important?

by Dr. Marli Botha

Dietary fibre, also known as roughage or bulk, includes the parts of plant foods that your body can’t easily digest or absorb. Dietary fibre, unlike other food components, such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates that your body can break down to absorb, cannot be completely broken down by human digestive enzymes. Dietary fibres make three primary contributions: bulking, viscosity and fermentation. Dietary fibres can change the nature of the contents of the gastrointestinal tract and can change how other nutrients and chemicals are absorbed through bulking and viscosity. Fermentable fibres are consumed by the microbiota within the large intestines.

4 More interesting facts about fiber:

  1. Fiber is commonly classified as soluble, which dissolves in water, or insoluble, which doesn’t dissolve.
    • Soluble fiber. This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
    • Insoluble fiber. This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber.
  2. The amount of soluble and insoluble fiber varies in different plant foods. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods.
  3. We all have heard that fiber is essential for our gut microbiota and therefore for our overall health, but does that mean that every time we eat a high-fiber snack we are actually feeding our gut bacteria the fiber it needs? American adults are only eating an average of 15 grams of fiber on any given day, despite the daily recommendations from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics being, 25 grams for women, or 21 grams if over 50 years old, 38 grams for men, or 30 grams if over 50. By eating fiber, then, we are ensuring those trillions of microbes are well-fed so they can help us stay in good health.
  4. Fiber is naturally found in all fruits and vegetables. You can’t really go wrong by adding these components to your daily regime. In fact, one study found that simply eating an apple before every meal had significant health benefits.

It is important to mention that no food is meant to be a cure-all for any condition, though there are certainly health and skin benefits contained within them. The one thing you should always do before using a new skin care product is to do a patch test to look for allergies and sensitivities.

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