Very few people talk about fiber and yet, it is essential to a healthy dietary profile. Let’s break down fiber and it’s important role in our diet.
There are two types of fiber; soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is found in oats, dried beans, peas, nuts, fruits and veggies such as bananas and tomatoes. Insoluble fiber is primarily found in the structures of plants cell walls and include vegetables such as green beans, beets, fruit skins and whole grain products. Both types, while indigestible, play major roles, whether we are trying to perform workouts or lose 5 lbs. In addition to providing satiety (a fancy term for a feeling of fullness), fiber lowers blood and fat and cholesterol levels. It can also reduce the risk of colon cancer and provide for improved gut function and health. Fiber provides for proper intestinal mobility while adding bulk to stools and decreasing colonic transport time. All of that being said, when our gut is healthy, our bodies can function 100%, whether we are taking time off of our 5k or shedding body fat.
We might see some digestive benefit from ingesting the minimum recommended fiber intake of 25 grams per day. The optimal amount is closer to 35 grams a day for women and 48 for men who consider themselves to be athletes. This is fairly easy to intake if you eat plenty of whole plant foods (i.e. unprocessed grains, fruits, veggies, and beans/legumes). More than 40 grams a day, may sometimes have the reverse or opposite affect and lead to digestive upset so it’s best to gradually increase your intake in you are on the low side.
In addition to the stated health benefits, fiber can help individuals seeking to lose weight. This is likely due in part to fiber providing a feeling of fullness, thus preventing weight loss individuals from over-eating. Heart health and gut health are also benefited from a diet rich in fiber as those who intake fiber have a lower risk of heart disease and those with poor gut health. It’s important to also seek out a fiber-rich diet for children as well as they too need to support healthy digestive systems. In other words, adding fiber options at every meal for children will help them keep a balanced diet (sources include grains, fruits, and veggies mentioned above).