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Why Fiber is So Important


Fiber. Fiber. Fiber. I can't say enough about fiber and its importance to your overall health. If you are like most Americans, you are not getting enough fiber in your diet. So lets break down why fiber is so important.


First, fiber is a carbohydrate found in plants. Your body doesn't digest fiber, yet is is essential for moving food through your bowels and protecting you from a number of bad health conditions. In fact, eating fiber is one of the easiest and most inexpensive things you can do to improve your health.


You get fiber in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, seeds, nuts and fiber supplements. Soluble fiber like nuts and seeds, lentils, peas and whole grains slow your digestion and help you feel more full and it softens your stool. Metamucil is a soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber found in vegetables, some whole grains and wheat bran helps bulk up your stool and pass through your entire GI tract. Both types of fiber are good for digestion, constipation, lower cholesterol and diabetes. Fiber helps you lose weight and control blood sugar and cholesterol...the main killers as a result of our Western diets.


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I've talked about the gut microbiome and how important those helpful bacteria are. Fiber is what feeds the small bacteria and helps them stay in balance. Your gut needs mucous and your GI tract cells produce mucous. When the bacteria don't have enough fiber, they digest the mucous. Uggh. You don't want to starve the microbiome.


What's the cure for constipation? Fiber. In one study, 77% of people with constant constipation were cured by increasing fiber in the diet. Soluble fiber increases water absorption in the GI tract and insoluble fiber bulks up the stool and makes it easy to pass.


If that's not enough, fiber slows down the absorption of sugar and helps regulate highs and lows. In one large study, people who ate more fiber, especially grains, developed LESS diabetes, despite eating the same amount of sugar. And every extra 10 grams of fiber a day, lowered cancer risk by 7%


"But, Dr. Brayer, how much fiber do I need for these health benefits?" Women should eat at least 25gm a day and men 38gm. Like anything...it takes knowledge and focus. This is why reading food labels and making sure your shopping cart contains fiber foods is important.

Aim for 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Think back on yesterday. Did you get 4-5 servings? When you read packaged labels look for items that have at least 5gm of fiber per serving. Eat an apple every day. Beans, popcorn, avocado, broccoli, lentils, berries, carrots, chia seeds, oatmeal, chard and beets are all high fiber foods


If you are having abdominal surgery, have Crohns disease, diarrhea irritable bowel or any kind of bowel blockage you should eat low fiber foods like meat, fish, chicken, tofu, white bread, dairy and eggs to rest the gut. The rest of you...eat more fiber for better health.

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