Surprising Benefits of Fiber You May Not Know
Fiber does more than just keeping the digestive system in order. It plays a crucial role in the functioning of the various systems of the body. It helps keep you youthful. As per a research published in the Journal of Gerontology, older adults, who consumed fiber-rich diet, had 80% more likelihood of living longer and healthier lives as compared to those, who did not. So, these are a few fiber benefits, let’s explore.
Sadly, most Americans do not consume the suggested amount of fiber on a daily basis. The government fibre recommendations for men above the age of 51 is 28 gm per day, while for women above the age of 51, it is 22 gm per day. But, it has been found that people in this age group receive only 16 gm on an average.
What is Fiber?
It is a carbohydrate present in plant-based foods like vegetables, nuts, fruits, beans and grains. In scientific terms, it ain’t a nutrient. It does not get decomposed (digested) and absorbed. Surprisingly, this is what makes it useful.
Fiber can be divided into two categories – insoluble fiber and soluble fiber.
Soluble fiber is called so as it can dissolve in water, resulting in a gel-like substance. It makes the stool easier to pass as it bulks it up. Some of its sources are oats, flesh of fruits, sweet potatoes and beans.
Sources of insoluble fiber are vegetables, fruit skin and whole grains. Lindsay Malone, dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine says that insoluble fiber helps in contracting the digestive tract, enabling waste and food to move through the body.
Generally, plant-based foods contain both soluble and insoluble fibers.
Helps In Keeping You Young
There are many ways by which, fiber keeps you young and healthy. Let’s see how this simple substance affects longevity and health.
- Effectively Manages The Cholesterol Levels: Soluble fiber attaches to the bile acids – substances made by the liver that help in the digestion and absorption of fat – making it easier for the body to excrete them. Now, when the body needs more bile acid, it captures cholesterol from the blood to do so.
- Protects Against Diabetes: According to a 2009 study, people, who received less than 20 gm of fiber every day had 50% more chances of developing Type 2 diabetes as compared to those, who got more than 31 gm of fiber every day.  When you eat food with high fiber content, the carbohydrates get absorbed more slowly. So, the blood sugar level increases at a slower rate, giving more time to pancreas to form insulin.
- Helps Manage Weight: Fiber makes you feel fuller for a longer duration. Also, they have lesser calories. So, it helps in controlling weight.
- Reducing the Risk of Colorectal Cancer: Recent researches say that consuming around 90g of fiber filled whole grains in a day could cut the chances of colorectal cancer by about 17%.
- Minimizing Inflammation: Chronic inflammation is associated with many conditions like arthritis, Alzheimer’s and some types of cancer. Several studies suggest that increasing the intake of soluble fiber results in minimizing the inflammation.
- Protect Joints: As stated above, fiber can reduce inflammation. No wonder, it cuts out the risk of arthritis. In a study, researchers examined two groups. In the first group, it was found that people, who consumed around 20 gm of fiber on an average, had about 30% less chances of having osteoarthritis in their knees as compared to those, who consumed only 8 gm of fiber. In the other group, it was found that those, who consumed around 25 gm of fiber on an average had 61% less chances of having the condition than those, who averaged at 14 gm. 
- Increasing Good Bacteria in Gut: Fiber helps in fermentation. Fermented material gives food to healthy bacteria to multiply and flourish. This helps in strengthening the immune system and controlling inflammation.
Natural And Artificial Fibers
There are some types of fiber that are added to packaged foods like beta glucan, cellulose, inulin, psyllium and pectin. The U.S. FDA is trying to figure out if it should let the food manufacturers to count such ingredients as a part of the product’s total fiber content. The aim of adding fiber in foods and beverages is to make sure that fiber content is increased without increasing the calories. However, this is not a healthy practice since it will make junk food look healthy as the labels would boast the fiber content.
Tips to Increase Fiber Content
The best way to get fiber is from natural sources. If you take a supplement instead of naturally rich fruits, whole grains and vegetables, you may have to forgo the other benefits. Some great sources of fiber are avocados, raspberries, pears and sweet potatoes.
People feel that adding fiber-rich foods to their diet may cause their stomachs to bloat and they may have to experience gas.
But, we would advise you to increase your fiber intake and drink more water to prevent constipation. You can know by trial and error, which foods are the best for your digestive system.