When it comes to supporting health, few dietary components compare to the amazing health properties of fiber.
Fiber is the indigestible portion of plants. It is divided into 2 types: soluble and insoluble. Solubility refers to the property of dissolving in water, making a gelatinous thickened liquid. In food, soluble and insoluble fiber comes together as a package. Both types of fiber are either completely or partially digestible by our microbiome (gut bugs).
Here are some stats you should know about fiber:
RDA for fiber (adult): 25 – 38 grams (depending on gender, size)
Average fiber intake in Canada: 15 grams
Estimated fiber intake in some indigenous diets: 70 grams
We are falling short!
You should make sure you get enough fiber for several reasons – which I will enumerate over the next few weeks.
Reason number 1: Fiber helps you manage blood sugar and weight gain.
Fiber, when consumed with carbohydrates, slows the absorption of glucose into our blood stream. This is desirable because it allows for a steady and prolonged supply of glucose to tissues rather than a spike.
Spikes in blood sugar/glucose are harmful for a variety of reasons.
Excess glucose in the blood stream is inflammatory: increasing our perception of pain and increasing damage to our tissues. Excess glucose sticks to cells and reduces optimal function – these are called ‘Advanced Glycation End Products’ or AGE’s. This is an appropriate name because excess glucose ages us. It ages every part of our body, including our brain. Who wants to age faster than necessary? – Not me!
Excess glucose must be processed. Cells go into frantic glucose metabolism leading to the production of free radicals which damage cell membranes. This requires the immune system to do clean up and ultimately causes an inflammatory environment in the body. Continuous prolonged excess glucose causes high insulin secretion which tires the pancreas and interferes with other hormones in the blood stream. Over years of this process, the individual becomes insulin resistant and then diabetic. Alzheimer’s is now referred to as diabetes type 3. Keeping blood sugar in check is so important for our long-term quality of life!
Glucose is processed into energy and fat. The right amount of glucose gives us energy. Extra glucose makes us fatter. Fiber helps reduce the fat production by slowing the release of glucose – closer to our energy needs rather than requiring it to be stored as fat.
Increase your fiber intake from foods as much as possible – vegetables, beans, fruits, whole grains and nuts and seeds.
If you want to add fiber to your diet in the form of supplements (powders, capsules), here are some ideas:
– Psyllium husk or seeds – I like this source because it’s inexpensive
– Glucomannan from konjac root
– Beta glucan from a variety of sources including oats – It is also being studied for immune modulating effects (similar to medicinal mushrooms)
These supplements will often be labeled as remedies for constipation or diarrhea but they are so much more useful than just that.