Feeling the Benefits of Fiber

Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that consists of cellulose, pectin, gum, mucilage, hemicellulose, and lignin. You don’t completely digest and absorb fiber, because you don’t have the enzymes required to disassemble it. For that reason, fiber accounts for less than the four Calories per gram of other carbohydrates. Fiber helps you maintain an ideal weight by absorbing water, slowing the emptying of your stomach, and adding volume to food so that you feel full longer. Foods high in fiber often require more chewing, so it takes more time to eat, and you can’t eat a large number of calories in a short amount of time. It helps to prevent diabetes by slowing the entrance of glucose into the bloodstream, reducing glucose and insulin spikes after meals. Fiber helps prevent deaths from coronary heart disease.  Fermentation of fiber and resistant starch by bacteria in the large intestine helps to prevent colorectal cancers.

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Fiber in cell walls is insoluble in water. These include cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. Insoluble fiber binds water as it passes through the digestive tract, making stools softer and bulkier. It also stimulates peristalsis—the rhythmic contractions that move food along the digestive tract, preventing constipation and hemmorhoids. Insoluble fiber also prevents irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis, a painful inflammation of the diverticula, which are pouches of the intestinal wall. Because fiber accelerates the transit of carcinogens in the gastrointestinal tract, colon cells are exposed for a shorter time to these toxins, and the likelihood of colon cancer is reduced. Insoluble fiber also helps to prevent gallstones in women.

Soluble fiber, also called viscous fiber, is found inside plant cells. Pectin, gum, and beta-glucan are soluble fibers. Soluble fiber increases the viscosity of food, which slows the movement of food through the intestines, preventing diarrhea. Your body uses cholesterol to produce bile acids, some of which are excreted daily. Soluble fiber binds to bile acids, reducing the amount of bile reabsorbed in the intestines, and increasing the amount of bile that is excreted in the feces. To make up for this loss of bile, the liver makes more bile salts, using more cholesterol to make them. In order to obtain the cholesterol necessary to make more bile salts, the liver increases its production of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptors. These receptors pull cholesterol out of LDL molecules in the bloodstream. Therefore, the more bile salts the liver makes, the more LDL cholesterol is pulled from the blood. One of the short-chain fatty acids produced by the fermentation of soluble fiber in the large intestines may also inhibit the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver. A high-fiber diet reduces total cholesterol, triglycerides, and Very Low Density Lipoprotein–the most dangerous form of cholesterol. This prevents the buildup of plaque in the arteries and improves cardiovascular health. It also lowers the risk of heart disease.

In addition to its beneficial effects on the digestive and cardiovascular systems, soluble fiber helps stabilize blood sugar levels by preventing blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. If you have insulin resistance, hypoglycemia, or diabetes, the soluble fiber in foods like lentils can help balance blood sugar levels while providing steady, slow-burning energy. Researchers compared two groups of people with type 2 diabetes who ate different amounts of high-fiber foods. People who consume 50 grams of fiber per day versus the standard 25 grams of fiber per day had significant improvements in glycemic control and lipid panels. Soluble fiber also provides a feeling of fullness, so it can potentially help with weight loss.

In addition, probiotic bacteria thrive on soluble fibers, including oligofructose and inulin. Oligofructose is a fructooligosaccharide, which refers to a short chain of fructose molecules. Inulins are a group of polysaccharides, which means a long chain of sugar molecules. The probiotic bacteria in your colon can metabolize these soluble fibers through fermentation, releasing significant quantities of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane. This process can sometimes cause intestinal gas; however, if you eat these soluble fibers regularly, your body grows accustomed to them, and you experience fewer problems with gas.

The probiotic intestinal bacteria can metabolize the soluble fiber into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). This process not only helps support healthy populations of friendly bacteria in your large intestine, but also provides a direct supply of energy (in the form of SCFAs) to the cells that line your large intestine. With this benefit of this extra SCFA energy supply, your intestinal cells can stay healthier and function at a lower risk of becoming cancerous.

Inulin and oligofructose are naturally present in many plant foods, and may help prevent constipation, promote enzyme activity and improve the pH levels in your colon. In addition, inulin promotes Lactobacillus acidophilus to produce butyrate, a beneficial short-chain fatty acid that helps inhibit inflammation in the intestinal tract.  Beans, peas, and lentils contain the oligosaccharides, raffinose and stachyose, that feed bifidobacteria, which suppress the activity of putrefactive bacteria, such as Clostridium in the colon.

Beta glucans are sugars that are found in the cell walls of baker’s yeast, shiitake mushrooms, and cereal grains, like barley, oats, rye, and wheat. They increase the number of probiotic bacteria in the intestines, especially in people over the age of fifty. Beta glucans stimulate the activity of macrophages, which are immune cells that ingest and demolish invading pathogens and stimulate other immune cells to attack. Macrophages also release cytokines, chemicals that enable the immune cells to communicate with one another. In addition, beta glucans stimulate lymphocytes (white blood cells) that bind to tumors or viruses, and release chemicals to destroy it. Beta glucans also help to lower total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol. Lentinan, a type of beta glucan found in shiitake mushrooms, is believed to reduce tumor activity and lessen the side effects of cancer treatmentBeta glucans also help your body fight bacteria resistant to antibiotic treatment and viruses that cause upper respiratory infections. They fight a form of Escherichia coli (ETEC), which cause traveler’s diarrhea. They also fight upper respiratory infections from colds and flu. Lentinan strengthens the immune system and helps combat illnesses that attack the immune system like AIDS.

While the American Dietetic Association recommends 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day, unfortunately the average American only gets 12 to 15 grams.

The best sources of soluble fiber are oats, especially oat bran, barley, dried beans, soybeans, sweet potato and white potato, broccoli, asparagus, carrot, apple, pear, citrus fruits, berries, banana, almonds, psyllium, and flax seeds.

In fact, all dietary fiber is found only in plant foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. Meat, milk, and eggs do not contain fiber. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables contain just as much fiber as raw ones. Drying and crushing, however, destroy the water-holding qualities of fiber. Removing seeds, peels, or hulls also reduces fiber content. Whole tomatoes have more fiber than peeled tomatoes, which have more than tomato juice. Likewise, whole wheat bread contains more fiber than white bread.

Sources of Fiber

Food

Serving

Calories

Amount

Daily Value

Navy Beans

1 cup cooked

254.8

19.11 g

76.44%

Dried Peas

1 cup cooked

231.3

16.27 g

65.08%

Lentils

1 cup cooked

229.7

15.64 g

62.56%

Pinto Beans

1 cup cooked

244.5

15.39 g

61.56%

Black Beans

1 cup cooked

227.0

14.96 g

59.84%

Barley

1 cup cooked

270.0

13.60 g

54.40%

Lima Beans

1 cup cooked

216.2

13.16 g

52.64%

Chickpeas

1 cup cooked

269.0

12.46 g

49.84%

Kidney Beans

1 cup cooked

224.8

11.33 g

45.32%

Soybeans

1 cup cooked

297.6

10.32 g

41.28%

Avocado

1 cup

233.6

9.78 g

39.12%

Rye

0.33 cup

188.5

8.42 g

33.68%

Wheat

1 cup cooked

151.1

8.19 g

32.76%

Raspberries

1 cup

64.0

7.99 g

31.96%

Green Peas

1 cup raw

115.7

7.58 g

30.32%

Spelt

4 ounces

246.4

7.57 g

30.28%

Winter Squash

1 cup baked

75.8

5.74 g

22.96%

Pear

1 medium

103.2

5.52 g

22.08%

Papaya

1 medium

118.6

5.47 g

21.88%

Collards

1 cup cooked

49.4

5.32 g

21.28%

Yam

1 cup baked

157.8

5.30 g

21.20%

Turnip Greens

1 cup cooked

28.8

5.04 g

20.16%

Buckwheat

1 cup cooked

154.6

4.54 g

18.16%

Apple

1 small

94.6

4.37 g

17.48%

Spinach

1 cup cooked

41.4

4.32 g

17.28%

Olives

1 cup

154.6

4.30 g

17.20%

Sesame Seeds

0.25 cup

206.3

4.25 g

17.00%

Oats

1 cup cooked

166.1

3.98 g

15.92%

Flax Seeds, ground

2 tablespoons

74.8

3.82 g

15.28%

Beets

1 cup raw

58.5

3.81 g

15.24%

Potatoes

1 medium baked

160.9

3.81 g

15.24%

Sweet Potato

1 cup baked

102.6

3.76 g

15.04%

Chard

1 cup cooked

35.0

3.67 g

14.68%

Corn

1 cup

143.0

3.58 g

14.32%

Blueberries

1 cup

84.4

3.55 g

14.20%

Carrots

1 cup

50.0

3.42 g

13.68%

Brussels Sprouts

1 cup raw

37.8

3.34 g

13.36%

Oranges

1 medium

61.6

3.14 g

12.56%

Prunes

0.25 cup

104.4

3.09 g

12.36%

Banana

1 medium

105.0

3.07 g

12.28%

Strawberries

1 cup

46.1

2.88 g

11.52%

Mustard Greens

1 cup cooked

21.0

2.80 g

11.20%

Eggplant

1 cup raw

19.7

2.76 g

11.04%

Cinnamon

2 teaspoons

12.8

2.76 g

11.04%

Asparagus

1 cup raw

26.8

2.74 g

10.96%

Onions

1 cup raw

64.0

2.72 g

10.88%

Fennel

1 cup raw

27.0

2.70 g

10.80%

Green Beans

1 cup raw

31.0

2.70 g

10.80%

Kale

1 cup cooked

36.4

2.60 g

10.40%

Broccoli

1 cup raw

30.9

2.37 g

9.48%

Pineapple

1 cup

82.5

2.31 g

9.24%

Cranberries

0.50 cup

23.0

2.30 g

9.20%

Shiitake Mushrooms

87 grams

29.6

2.17 g

8.68%

Tomatoes

1 cup raw

32.4

2.16 g

8.64%

Cauliflower

1 cup raw

26.8

2.14 g

8.56%

Coriander

2 teaspoons

17.8

2.12 g

8.48%

Kiwifruit

1 medium

45.0

2.00 g

8.00%

Romaine Lettuce

2 cups

16.0

1.97 g

7.88%

Bell Peppers

1 cup raw

28.5

1.85 g

7.40%

Cabbage

1 cup raw

17.5

1.75 g

7.00%

Leeks

1 cup raw

54.3

1.60 g

6.40%

Oregano

2 teaspoons

9.5

1.53 g

6.12%

Figs

8 ounces

37.0

1.45 g

5.80%

Cloves

2 teaspoons

13.6

1.44 g

5.76%

Grapefruit

0.50 medium

41.0

1.41 g

5.64%

Celery

1 cup

16.2

1.40 g

5.60%

Cantaloupe

1 cup

54.4

1.34 g

5.36%

Summer Squash

1 cup raw

18.1

1.24 g

4.96%

Basil

2 teaspoons

7.0

1.13 g

4.52%

Black Pepper

2 teaspoons

10.7

1.11 g

4.44%

Thyme

2 teaspoons

7.7

1.04 g

4.16%

Rosemary

2 teaspoons

7.9

1.02 g

4.08%

Cayenne Pepper

2 teaspoons

11.4

0.98 g

3.92%

Miso

1 tablespoon

34.2

0.93 g

3.72%

Turmeric

2 teaspoons

15.6

0.93 g

3.72%

Plum

1 medium

30.4

0.92 g

3.68%

Dill

2 teaspoons

12.8

0.89 g

3.56%

Apricot

1 medium

16.8

0.69 g

2.76%


This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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51 thoughts on “Feeling the Benefits of Fiber

  1. Pingback: Branching Out With Broccoli | Humane Living

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