Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Fiber, According to an RD
FIBER - everyone’s talking about it. What are the benefits of fiber? What are fiber rich foods? What’s the difference between soluble fiber and insoluble fiber? What are prebiotics? How much fiber do you need? Why are high in fiber foods good for you?
We’ve got the scoop on all things fiber. All the benefits of fiber! We interviewed Rebecca Henson, Registered Dietitian, Physical Therapist, Hormone Expert, and big time science nerd to answer all your “what is fiber” questions once and for all!
Let’s start with the basics.
What is fiber? What are the benefits of fiber?
“Fiber is what gives plants their structure. It’s the indigestible part of a carbohydrate. Some of the endless benefits of fiber include: aiding in digestion, lowering cholesterol, improving satiety, balancing hormones, and even assisting with weight loss,” shared Rebecca.
Fiber works like magic. Unlike any other macronutrient, such as fats, proteins, or carbohydrates, fiber essentially passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, and large intestine. As Rebecca described it perfectly, “Insoluble fiber tends to come out looking the same as it did going in.” Simply put, fiber helps move things along the digestive tract, which is essential for a healthy diet.
Did you know that this is the reason why dietary fiber does not count towards your daily net carbohydrates? Thank you, fiber!
What’s the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and may help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Insoluble fiber is the type of fiber that promotes the movement of material through your digestive system. Both essential!
How much fiber do you recommend men & women have each day?
According to Rebecca, fiber recommendations are: 25-30g per day. Work with a dietitian, like Rebecca, to figure out the best macronutrient breakdown for your optimal health!
So what’s up with prebiotic fiber? That’s a buzzword lately.
In addition to all the amazing benefits of dietary fiber, “Prebiotics are a type of fiber that specifically feeds the healthy bacteria in our gut to promote a strong microbiome. There’s a lot of new research linking a healthy microbiome to a healthy immune system, a healthy weight, and even a positive mindset.” Prebiotics are considered to be the "food" for probiotics. Simply put, prebiotic fiber is an essential building block for a healthy gut!
Ah, the power of fiber!
How do I get my prebiotics?
According to RD Arlene Semeco from Healthline, Chicory Root is #1 on the list of 19 healthy prebiotic foods. Chicory root comes from a plant with bright blue flowers that belongs to the dandelion family.
“Approximately 47% of chicory root fiber comes from the prebiotic fiber, inulin. The inulin in chicory root nourishes the gut bacteria, improves digestion, and helps relieve constipation. It can also help increase bile production, which improves fat digestion. Additionally, chicory root is high in antioxidant compounds that protect the liver from oxidative damage.” (1).
As a biochemistry major with a focus in nutrition and a science nerd myself, I naturally needed to know more. According to one study, “the results suggest that chicory root could delay the early onset of diabetes mellitus and improve bowel movements.”
Here’s how it all went down (no pun intended). 47 healthy adults were divided into a test group that drank chicory root extract daily for 4 weeks and a placebo group that drank a nonchicory root extract drink. The group that drank the chicory root extract experienced two significant benefits:
- Their levels of a special hormone called, adiponectin, which regulates glucose levels, increased. #winning
- And their fecal scores improved greatly! (2)
Rebecca shared, “When considering food labels it's important to look at ingredients, not just the nutrient panel. A good place to start is to make sure that the ingredients are as close to the way nature made them as possible. For example some added fibers were never meant to be consumed and some are from GMO ingredients. Chicory root fiber has been well-studied and is recommended as a natural source of fiber that acts as an effective prebiotic to feed our healthy gut bacteria (microbiome).
Finally, how can a high fiber diet impact your hormones and aid in weight loss/management?
One of the best parts about high fiber foods is that they slow digestion. Here’s how Rebecca breaks it down, “Fiber rich foods regulate the speed of digestion of carbohydrates. This in turn, helps slow the release of insulin while aiding in glucose regulation. Fiber also increases the bulk of the food so that the receptors in your stomach signal your brain (aka your hunger hormones). The fiber tells your brain that you’ve had enough to eat.” Cravings curbed, thanks to fiber!
Here are some good sources of fiber rich foods to include in your diet:
- Nuts and seeds
- Veggies, especially: onions, garlics, leeks, and asparagus
- Fruits, like berries, apples, and pears
- Chicory root & dandelion greens
- Legumes, like beans, peas, and lentils
- Cocoa beans
More questions? Email us at email@example.com so we can connect you with the best of the best: the RDs, MDs, and nutritionists who make up the B.T.R. Collective to answer all your questions.
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.