Why You Need More Dietary Fiber
Understanding the fiber and gut microbiome connection is essential for our health.
Research has shown that dietary fibers, specifically soluble fiber, feed our gut microbiome. Through fermentation, our gut bacteria produce essential metabolites, such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).
Fiber directly impacts, “microbiota composition, diversity, and richness.”
The fiber and gut microbiome connection results in many life-saving benefits. Ingesting the recommended amount could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
SCFAs and the fiber and gut microbiome connection:
According to the ESNM Gut Microbiota and Health website, our gut bacteria, or microbiome, breaks down the fiber that reaches our colon through fermentation. SCFA molecules are a fermentation by-product.
SCFAs perform many tasks essential for our health:
- They energize the colon’s interior cells.
- They stimulate the production of our gut’s protective mucus layer.
- They help regulate the genes responsible for cellular division and DNA duplication.
- They may have a role in gut motility- the muscular contractions that move food through our digestive tract.
- Without adequate fiber consumption, we can’t produce enough SCFAs to perform all these critical functions.
What is Fiber?
Fiber is present in whole grains, beans, vegetables, and even in the skin of fruits. Both soluble and insoluble fibers are very beneficial to our health.
– Soluble fiber attracts water and turns into a gel in the intestines, slowing digestion and promoting healthy stool formation. Soluble fiber lowers cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.
– Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. A component of wheat bran and vegetables, it prevents constipation by helping push food through the intestines.
Unfortunately, industrialized and developed countries are consuming only half the recommended daily amount.
In 2010, a research review by St.Catherine Unversity’s Professor Emerita of Julie Miller Jones found that “Less than one in ten Americans meets the fiber requirement.”:
Five years later, statistics from 2015 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics position paper stated that only 5% of the US’s population meets the required intake.
This means that the majority of people are missing out on benefits that could be life-changing.The benefits of eating fiber include:
Fiber and gut microbiome health impact:
Fiber modifies the movement and mass of the materials in our gut. This aids in healthy digestion, eliminates constipation, and promotes the growth of beneficial Bifidobacterium in the colon.
In this 2018 research review from the University of Gothenburg, researchers suggested that inhibited mucus production increases the risk of chronic inflammatory disease development.
This 2009 review of nearly 150 studies associated dietary fiber intake with a positive impact on gastrointestinal tract disorders, including:
– Hiatal hernias
– Colorectal ulcer
– GERD/ Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Stronger Immune System:
Another study included a two-week dietary intervention in which African-Americans and rural South Africans’ traded diets.
The Americans exchanged their low-fiber, high-fat, high-protein Western diets for the South Africans’ high-fiber, low-fat ones, and vice versa.
The change resulted in “remarkable reciprocal changes” with a significant decrease in precancerous biomarkers for the African-American group.
Reduced Diabetes and Heart Disease Risk:
Our understanding of fiber’s effect on cholesterol has steadily increased.
This 2017 research review from the National University of Health Science’s Dr. Marc McRae found people consuming high fiber reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease.
He stated that fiber’s ability to lower low-density cholesterol levels could be the reason.
In a 2018 study, Dr. McCrae reported that people who consumed high-fiber diets had less chance of developing type 2 diabetes. He also observed only a small drop in participants’ blood glucose levels.
Fiber could also lower our post-meal blood sugar spikes by slowing the rate at which we digest sugar.
Among the diet and fitness community, fiber-rich foods are go-to meal choices because they’re usually low in calories and keep you full longer.
Research published in the October 2019 Journal of Nutrition concluded that an increase in dietary fiber promoted weight loss and dietary adherence in overweight or obese adults.
How can I increase my fiber intake?
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that recommended fiber intake for a 2000-calorie diet is:
- – 38 grams/day for males
- – 25 grams/day for females
What are good sources of fiber?
- Beans. Enjoy them in salads and soups or with brown rice.
- Whole grains. Oatmeal, brown rice, and popcorn are good examples.
- Nuts. Almonds, pecans, and walnuts are excellent choices.
- Baked potato with skin. The skin is important.
- Berries. All those seeds, plus the skin, pack any berry with fiber.
- Bran cereal.
- Vegetables. Look for green and crunchy varieties.
Tips to Improve Fiber consumption:
– Eat your fruits and vegetables with the skin after cleaning them well. The fiber we’re looking for is often in the skin.
– Make it a part of your morning routine. Try high-fiber cereal or oatmeal. topped with fruit.
– Revise your idea of snacks. A fresh fruit plate with whole-grain crackers, popcorn, and nuts are perfect high-fiber examples.
Fiber and gut microbiome go together like Popeye and spinach.
The results of increasing our fiber go far beyond simply influencing our digestive system. A healthy microbiome impacts our entire body!