Fiber! During our Summit yesterday, this was a popular word and for good reason! Fiber is incredibly healthful and increased fiber intake is associated with lower risk for chronic disease. It is important to note that fiber is ONLY found in plant foods. Similarly, cholesterol is ONLY found in animal foods so when we are talking about whole foods, the food will have either fiber or cholesterol. And what about the last part of the pie chart above? The 63% of processed foods are typically devoid of fiber (removed through the processing) and cholesterol or saturated fat, which causes our bodies to produce excess cholesterol, is often added.
How much fiber is needed? The minimum recommended is 38 grams daily for women and 45 grams daily for men according to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. These are minimums and many prominent physicians recommend much more for ideal health. The average American gets only 10-16 grams daily.
Fiber: The Two Types. Insoluble and Soluble.
Soluble fiber: This type of fiber is absorbed into your blood stream and helps lower your cholesterol. Common foods with soluble fiber are vegetables, beans and lentils, oats, and some fruits.
Insoluble fiber: This type of fiber acts like a "roto rooter" for your digestive tract, causing you to be "regular" in the bathroom. Common foods with insoluble fiber are whole grains, vegetables, beans, fruits and bran.
Additionally, if you are eating foods with fiber (plant foods) this will help your cholesterol in two ways: First by not ingesting cholesterol from the animal or processed food and secondly by the beneficial effects that fiber has on the cholesterol levels once in the gut or the body.
I don't recommend fiber supplements as a way to get fiber in the diet for many reasons but especially because if we reduce the beneficial ingredients into a pill or powder form, we have taken away all of the other healthful ingredients including vitamins and minerals. Additionally, the naturally fiber-rich foods have naturally high water content but with the supplements, the water has been removed. It is important to take with enough water to prevent or minimize side effects.
Enough can't be said about the benefits of fiber! If you'd like more information, I'd highly recommend the book Fiber Fueled by Dr. Bulsiewicz which will get into a lot more specifics including the benefits to gut health and the microbiome, a fascinating new field.