Fiber: it’s essential for a healthy body. But the majority of us don’t get enough fiber on a daily basis. In fact, only 5 percent of the U.S. population meets the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation for daily fiber consumption, which is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. That’s because today’s diets tend to be low in fiber. Without an ample supply of fiber, the health of your stomach and digestive system may become compromised.
Relatively easy to incorporate into your diet, there are two types of fiber to be aware of, and both need to be consumed.
Soluble fiber attracts water and forms a gel as it passes through, which effectively lubricates the digestive system and lower intestine. Adequate soluble fiber is essential for stomach health, and some types are known to lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Soluble fiber is present in high quantities in oats, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, leeks, onion, garlic, bananas, blueberries, apples, and asparagus.
Insoluble fiber is important, too. It adds bulk to our food and helps to fight diseases that affect the stomach and intestines. Most plants contain some insoluble fiber in their leaves and roots, and in the skins of their seeds and fruits. Good sources of insoluble fiber include whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, apples, seeds, and fibrous leafy plants.
All forms of fiber are technically forms of starch and therefore fall into the category of carbohydrates. But unlike sugar and digestible starches, fiber does not contribute much energy to the body’s system. Fibers are starches with almost zero calories. A plentiful intake of fiber helps the body manage its overall caloric food consumption–and therefore your weight.
The human digestive system cannot digest fiber efficiently, but some strains of stomach microbes can consume fiber and benefit. They are able to extract the energy locked in the fibers, and they use that energy to grow and multiply. The chemical by-products of that conversion process may be another reason why consuming fiber boosts health. The more fiber-loving microbes we cultivate, the healthier we become.