When you ask most people why it is important to make dietary fiber a regular in your daily nutrition you, will often get the same array of answers:
- “It keeps you regular.”
- “It makes you poop.”
- “It lightens the load.”
Don’t get me wrong, these answers are accurate, but they are just a small piece of why you should consume fiber daily. Fiber has a wide array of benefits that protect you from diseases and health ailments. So yes, while you may have some righteous releases in the bathroom, there is so much more to this macronutrient (fiber is considered a macronutrient).
Benefit #1 – Bowel Health
Not only does fiber help you clear your bowels, but it also keeps them healthy. Many fibers ferment in the colon. This process reduces bacteria and other potentially harmful pests. Subsequently, a clean and healthy colon reduces chances of colon and hemorrhoidal disease.
Benefit #2 – Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight
Including more fiber in your meals is a great way of maintaining a healthy weight for numerous reasons. First, fiber stabilizes your blood sugar levels and thus prevents spikes and crashes in energy that are common when consuming sugary carbohydrates. Foods high in fiber provide a stable source of energy throughout the day and will help prevent fat gain. In addition, fiber has the effect of making one feel fuller faster and increases satiety. Due to this, one is unlikely to reach for multiple servings and have cravings. Lastly, foods that carry a higher fiber content have a low calorie-density. Thus, by choosing these foods, you reduce the overall calories you are consuming in a day. For all of these reasons, fiber intake is key when trying to maintain a healthy weight!
Benefit #3 – Prevents Diseases
As I noted earlier, fiber does a great job of mitigating your risk of getting numerous diseases and health ailments. Wait, you’re a college student though, you don’t have to worry about these issues now, right? Wrong. Don’t think I am calling you out for thinking that, because in all honesty I often have to rearrange my thought process to avoid thinking that way myself. The truth is that the lifestyles you live today will have an effect on your body, mind, and health in the future.
Here is a quick list of some of the health complications fiber can potentially help you avoid:
- Heart disease (heart attacks)
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Colon cancer
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Diverticulitis (inflammation of the intestines)
- Gallstones and kidney stones
- Acne or poor skin
As you can see this list is quite immense! Now think about the health benefits that come from the various other micronutrients found in the same foods fiber is prevalent in. This list only scratches the surface of benefits you may experience from prioritizing fiber.
The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25 to 40 grams. Females are on the lower end, closer to 25 grams, and men on the higher end of the spectrum, around 40 grams.
Many of you may have heard the term “net carbs.” To better outline the principles of net carbs, lets look at a Quest Bar. One Quest Bar has 22 grams of carbohydrates, 17 grams of dietary fiber, and 2 grams of sugar alcohols. Since dietary fiber and sugar alcohols are indigestible by the body, this Quest Bar has 3 grams of net carbs (22 less 17 less 2). You’ll find that companies such as Quest (see image of Quest nutrition label) highlight their low net carb count on their packaging and in advertisements. This is a controversial topic but is a great point to raise when discussing fiber and it’s properties within the human digestive system.
I have just touched on the benefits of fiber. There is so much more to this wonderful macronutrient. Did you know there are two different classifications of fiber? Do you know which foods are fibrous?
John Meadows, a very well respected individual in the fitness community, goes deeper into fiber in this article he authored for T Nation. Give it a read to ensure your knowledge on fiber is vast and you make the right purchases in the grocery store.