What is it? Fiber is roughage. Your body does not digest fiber (not absorbed by the blood stream) - instead it passes through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and helps with the process of waste elimination.
What is the difference between soluble and insoluble fiber? Insoluble fiber will move bulk through your intestines and help control intestinal pH levels. Soluble fiber turns into a mushy, sticky substance as it binds with the fatty acids in the stomach. This causes the stomach to take a longer time to empty into the rest of the GI tract and thus slows down the absorption of sugar (this is especially beneficial for people with diabetes or at risk of diabetes). It is important to eat both types of fiber in your diet.
What are the benefits of eating fiber? Makes the process of waste elimination easier, with regular and healthy bowel movements: this helps maintain GI health and thus can help reduce the risk of various GI diseases including cancer. Fiber intake also helps with heart and circulatory health as it can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Fiber can also help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
What are the best fiber-rich foods? Many high fiber foods will contain both soluble and insoluble fiber: dark, leafy vegetables, fruits (and fruit skins), nuts, flax, oats, oat bran and psyllium. Foods that contain more soluble fiber include dry beans and barley. Insoluble fiber foods include whole wheat, corn bran and seeds. The Canada Food Guide recommends 5 to 10 servings of fruits and veggies and 5 to 12 servings of grains/cereals per day. Following the guide will help ensure that you get enough fiber in your diet. Fiber supplements are a popular method of increasing fiber intake, but talk to your doctor or a nutritional specialist first. Optimally, you want variety in your diet, incorporating all the four food groups. It is also important to maintain a high water intake in your diet.