We believe that the dietary choices we make are the foundation of health. This is backed up by countless studies showing the big role nutrition plays in our bodies’ ability to function well. Fiber is a cornerstone of any nutritious lifestyle. Getting enough fiber on a daily basis is one of the most important things you can do for your wellbeing.
The Importance of Fiber
A study by the US National Institutes of Health came to the conclusion that people who get at least the daily amount of fiber recommended by American health institutions live an average of nine years longer than those who do not eat enough fiber. High fiber consumers also have a much lower risk of dying from disease and other “natural” causes.
Fiber is essential for digestion, nutrient assimilation, and waste elimination. Soluble fiber “feeds” the beneficial bacteria in the colon, which supports digestion and immunity. It also slows down the digestion of sugar, helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. And it lower cholesterol levels, protecting the heart.
Insoluble fiber does not break down much in the digestive process. It acts like a broom to clean out the digestive tract. This is vital because a lot of disease is caused by an inability to effectively remove waste and toxins from the body.
Sufficient fiber intake is linked with a reduction in heart disease, respiratory illnesses, obesity, diabetes, and risk of death from infectious diseases, amongst many other benefits.
Getting Enough Fiber
In the study, the more fiber people consumed, the better. This was not by taking supplements, but by eating the right kinds of food. The most effective types of fiber come from whole foods. A person’s fiber needs vary by weight and the number of calories consumed each day, but in general 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed per day is considered the minimum.
The people in the study who fared the best were the ones who had eaten more insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is found in vegetables whole grains, and legumes. Soluble fiber, important in its own way, is found in seeds, fruit, oats, and cucumbers. Many foods, especially most fruits and vegetables, have both soluble and insoluble fiber.
For those whose health is suffering, even more fiber may be beneficial. While it is possible to overdo it with supplements, in general it is impossible to get too much fiber from food, as you would become full and unable to continue eating before your fiber intake got to high.
In one study the participants benefited from eating 40grams of fiber per day from whole food sources. They were seen to have the greatest reductions in serum glucose (blood sugar) and cholesterol levels.
What Do I Eat for Fiber?
Ah yes, the million dollar question. Knowing fiber is important is great, but actually getting enough is a different story. Luckily, it is quite accessible. Just eat whole vegan foods.
Processed food has had all the fiber stripped out of it. Avoid filling up on sugar, bread, white rice, crackers, or any packaged food products. Meat does not have fiber, and actually detracts from colon health. But most vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds are loaded with fiber.
Some of the most concentrated sources of fiber are split peas, green lentils, black (turtle beans), kidney beans, mung beans, artichokes, peas, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, avocado, chia seeds, pears, celery, oats, dark leafy greens like kale and Swiss chard, and flax seeds. But really most fruit and vegetables have a substantial amount of fiber, and most plant-based foods have at least a little fiber.
And if you are following a living foods lifestyle, you can get all the fiber you need from sprouted seeds and legumes, soaked nuts, blended vegetables or salads, and whole fruits.
It is worth reiterating that the health benefits come from eating whole foods that are naturally high in fiber, not eating mostly processed food and taking some fiber supplements. If you eat a diet of nearly all whole plant foods, you will get the amount of fiber you need to protect your health.
Fiber is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle for many reasons. It supports the functioning of the digestive tract, which in turn supports the health of every organ and system in the body. Getting plenty of fiber every day is a key component for a long and vital life. And you can get all the fiber you need from eating a diet that is primarily whole foods, including fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.