Much has been said about fiber. It’s been touted as necessary by some, and just an additive by the others. Lots of questions arise from a little knowledge of fiber. How does it really work? Can one have too much of it? Is it worth the hassle to obtain it? We’re here to shed some light on the topic.
To understand fiber, we must understand what it is and what kinds exist.
Fiber is essentially a complex carbohydrate made of non-starch polysaccharides, starches and/or cellulose. These are derived mostly from the remains of the cellular structure of plants. There are two types of fiber, and each has its own characteristic and utility:
1. Insoluble fiber: As the name suggests, this fiber doesn’t digest anywhere. It constitutes lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose, and is typically found in wheat and veggies. It’s job is to simply carry food and liquid through your system. It basically swells up like a sponge and adds volume to our stool, making it move through you intestines faster. Lo and behold, you have found the cure for constipation.
Less constipation: Many studies have indicated that insoluble fiber consumption decreases intestinal transit time. Most people on a high protein, high carb diet on a bulk experience constipation at some point or another, and increasing intake of insoluble fiber is a very effective way to alleviate the problem.
Cleaning up: When your colon doesn’t completely evacuate, or when bad bacteria begin to dominate the good bacteria, putrefaction occurs. This means that toxic substances can get reabsorbed back into the blood and other tissues. By binding with toxins and hormones, insoluble fiber is very good at keeping you “cleaned up”.
2. Soluble fiber: This type is very resistant to breakdown by the digestive enzymes in your mouth, stomach, and small intestine. Gums, pectins, and inulin are in this category.
Gumsstabilize food, giving it more of a shelf life. They also add texture to food. Probably most importantly, they slow down the absorption of glucose.
Pectinsare a little different in structure than gums. They’re more acidic, aiding in the absorption of certain minerals like zinc. Similar to gums, they also lower blood sugar levels. Probably the most well-known source of pectin is apples. They’re the source for many commercial pectin formulations.
Inulin is a FOS, or fructo-oligosaccharide.
You’ll generally find soluble fiber in fruits, beans, barley, oats, and some other sources. It does get digested – sort of – but not until it hits the large intestine, where good bacteria ferment it, producing butyric acid (found in butter) and acetic acid (found in vinegar). This helps the digestive system maintain its acidity.
· Lower LDL levels: When short chain fatty acids are made as a result of the fermentation of soluble fiber, it results in a decrease in LDL levels. This is especially useful for those prone to cardiovascular disease.
· Insulin stabilization: Soluble fiber encourages a smooth and gradual emptying of the stomach and subsequent entering of glucose into the bloodstream. This avoids the insulin spikes associated with fat storage.
*A study by Dr. Dennis Burkitt and Hugh Trowell showed that a low intake of fiber is also a contributing factor in occurrence of high blood pressure, obesity and several more diseases. Its just something that the body needs in a certain amount to function well.
About 25-40 g of fiber per day is recommended. As there are natural sources for it all around, it’s hard to be deficient unless your diet is terrible, and even if that happens, many supplements for it are available, such as our old family staple, psyllium husk or isabgol.
However, if you exceed 60-80g, one may have excessive bowel movement. But that sort of threshold is hard to cross, so there isn’t much to worry about.
So, incorporate fiber into your diet today, and keep your system nice and clean.
And while you do it, train hard, eat right and stay strong!