Fiber. As the commercials go, chances are you aren’t getting enough…but that’s because honestly, most people just don’t. Dietary fiber is found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, and it’s best known for its ability to prevent or relieve constipation. But fiber can provide other health benefits as well, such as lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease. But people are still asking themselves, “What is fiber”?
2 distinct types of fibers: insoluble and soluble
Insoluble fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular, ahem, stools. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts and many vegetables are excellent sources of insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It helps to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. It can be found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
Eating a diet rich in soluble and insoluble fiber helps the body in lots of ways!
- Normalizing bowel movements. Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and then softens it. A bulky stool is therefore easier to pass, decreasing the chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery bowel movements, fiber may also help to solidify them because it absorbs water and adds bulk. For some, fiber may provide relief from irritable bowel syndrome.
- Maintain bowel health. A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids or diverticulitis (small pouches in your colon) by helping to remove waste and toxins lingering in the intestines.
- Lowers blood cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Epidemiologists studies have shown that increased fiber intake can reduce blood pressure and inflammation, which is essential to heart health.
- Promotes weight loss. High-fiber foods typically requires more chewing time, which allows your body time to register when you’re no longer hungry, so you’re less likely to overeat. Also, a high-fiber diet tends to make a meal feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time. And high-fiber diets also tend to be less “energy-dense,” which means fewer calories for the same volume of food.
Smoothies are naturally power-packed with fiber, as everything is blended up and consumed. But what about all the pulp that is simply thrown in the garbage after juicing?
Fiber pulp – useless? No way!
Before tossing out what I consider to be fiber gold, I try to think of how it can be applied elsewhere. I’ve used my wheat grass pulp to make bread and when I juice tomatoes, I save the pulp to add body to spaghetti sauce. It’s really about getting creative. Soups, breads, sauces – you name it – can all be supercharged with the leftover pulp from juicing.