“Fiber” is what everyone is talking, we know fiber is good but I don’t think they are very well understood. In short, fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by humans. They are classified as soluble and insoluble according to their ability to dissolve in liquids.
Insoluble fibers have a “filling” function and are not that interesting. We find them in the bark of fruits and grains and help digestion. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, can have very strong effects on health and metabolism. Here’s why…
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Fibers “feed” the friendly bacteria in the stomach
Although it seems undesirable to have bacteria in the stomach (even friendly), they are very beneficial and help us to have a bulletproof health. Like any other organisms, bacteria needs to “eat” well in order to stay healthy. Different types of bacteria play an important role in the health of the intestinal flora but with implications on weight, blood sugar, immunity and even on the brain.
Soluble fibers reach the digestive system largely unchanged, reaching the friendly bacteria in the intestine and feeding them, bacteria which in turn helps digest the fibers and convert them into energy.
Feeding friendly bacteria in the gut is known to have a prebiotic effect and studies show that it is very beneficial for health and body weight.
Friendly bacteria fights against inflammation: the #1 cause for obesity
Every time I write the words “friendly bacteria” I imagine some type of smiling bacteria, which always makes me laugh. But the truth is that without them, we would be in a tough situation. These bacteria have an extraordinary effect on inflammation in the body and produce nutrients for the body that nourish the cells in the colon. This leads to a reduction of inflammation in the bowels and helps to improve the health of other conditions associated with inflammation.
Just as a clarification, inflammation is beneficial in the short term as it helps the body fight with foreign “invaders”, repairing cells. Chronic inflammation (long term) becomes a big problem as the body begins to fight against its own body and tissues.
Inflammation plays a strong role in most all diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, metabolic diseases etc. Also, studies show that inflammation is present when we gain weight, possibly due to effects on leptin.
Viscous fiber can reduce appetite, helping you eat less (and lose weight)
Although I’m not a big fan of calorie counting, the reality is that in order to lose weight, you must be in a caloric deficit. Therefore, any food that helps us control our appetites and hunger is welcome. Fibers have this satiety effect for longer, which makes us eat less.
According to studies , only a certain type of fiber gives this feeling of satiety. The more fiber is viscous, the more hungry you are, reducing appetite and the amount of food you eat. Very viscous fibers are the seeds of psylium, pectins, chia, all of which become like a gel when you put them in water. This gel slows the emptying of the stomach and increases the time required for digestion and absorption of nutrients. The result is the prolonged state of satiety and reduced appetite.
We find the viscous fibers exclusively in plants. Sources rich in viscous fiber can be found in beans, flax seeds, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, oatmeal, peas, nuts etc.
Other benefits of soluble fiber
- Helps lower cholesterol! Eat at least 10 grams of soluble fiber per day
- Keeps your blood sugar level under control
- Reduces the risk of ulcers
- Maintains a healthy colon by being popular with friendly bacteria
How many grams of fiber should I eat per day?
The general recommendation for fiber (soluble and insoluble) is between 21 and 38 grams per day. Which means a lot of vegetables!
If you have not had a high fiber diet so far, I recommend that you introduce them gradually into the diet as it may give you abdominal discomfort at first. The fiber supplements we find as capsules are not as effective as foods, I do NOT recommend relying on them.
Also, don’t forget that if you want to make a change it has to be supported both by what you eat and how much physical activity you do, as well as by what and how you think. Negative thoughts bring nothing positive.