1. Good for bowel movements
Fiber, also called dietary fiber, comes from the cell wall of plants. They are mainly in vegetables, fruit, bread, legumes, cereals, nuts, seeds and potatoes. The fact that they are so good for bowel movements is because they cannot be digested in the small intestine. So they arrive whole in the colon. There they stimulate the intestinal wall, which increases bowel movement and with it the speed with which the stool passes the intestinal tract.
Sufficient fiber is important at any age, but especially as we age. The older we get, the worse the bowel movements get. Forty percent of the over-65s suffer from constipation and among the over-80s this is even more than eighty percent. So eat enough whole grain products, vegetables, fruits, nuts and legumes. And very important: vary.
Don’t just get your fiber from grains, because eating too many grains has a negative effect on the intestines. Another tip: those who eat more fiber should also drink more. Water increases the volume of the stool and makes the stool softer. With too little moisture, a blockage can occur and you help your stool from the rain in the drip. So make sure you get enough fluids.
2. Good for the immune system
Fiber comes in different types. Roughly, a distinction is made between soluble (fermentable) and insoluble (non-fermentable) fibers. Insoluble fiber is mainly found in whole grains, cereals, linseed and nuts. Soluble fiber can be found in vegetables, fruit and legumes.
Both types cannot be digested by the small intestine and thus arrive whole in the large intestine. The difference is that the non-soluble fibers remain intact and leave the body through the stool and that soluble fibers in the colon are broken down by bacteria: they are fermented there. And so they serve as food for our intestinal bacteria and intestinal (epithelial) cells. You can buy these so-called prebiotics ready-to-use at the drugstore or pharmacy, but they are also in our diet. Onion, garlic, leeks, cabbage, bananas and legumes, for example, are rich in it.
3. Simple to eat more fiber
Only ten percent of the Dutch achieve the recommended amount of fiber of thirty to forty grams per day. This is partly because we have started to eat less fruit and vegetables and partly because the food industry has started processing grains.
Thirty to forty grams of fiber per day is also quite a lot. In comparison, to get 40 grams, you would have to eat eighteen slices of whole wheat bread. Yet you can increase your fiber intake quite a bit if you consciously choose fiber-rich food. A few tips for more fiber: eat raw vegetables every day with your lunch or dinner: carrots and cabbage are incredibly rich in fiber. And always opt for whole grain products.
Whole grain means that the whole grain has been processed, including all fibers. Don’t be fooled by terms like ‘waldkorn’ or ‘multigrain’ on the bread shelf. That says nothing about the amount of fiber, unless it also says ‘whole grain’ on the label. Brown bread higher in fiber than light brown? Unfortunately, the color also says nothing about the amount of fiber in a loaf. Some producers color their bread brown with malt. Check the box for more fiber-rich tips.
4. Good for your heart
Research from Tulane University in New Orleans shows that 20 grams of fiber per day reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by 12 percent compared to people who eat only six grams of fiber. Other research shows that fiber also plays a role in lowering blood pressure.
And that mainly fibers from fruits and grains such as oats have a positive effect on cholesterol. According to some researchers, this is because soluble fiber absorbs cholesterol from food and removes it through the stool. This indirectly improves the health of the blood vessels.
5. Faster full of fiber
Fiber-rich food ensures a longer lasting feeling of satiety. According to Wageningen researchers, this is because fiber really gives you a fuller stomach because of its absorption capacity. Even after the food has disappeared from the stomach, that satiety continues. In a study two years ago, it was found that a thick fiber-enriched shake with 100 calories was more saturated than a thin shake with 500 calories.
Even when taken from the stomach had disappeared, subjects had no appetite for a longer time than with the thin, high-calorie shake. The scientists do not yet know exactly how this is done. Taste, mouth feel and a slower eating speed probably also play a role. This feeling of fullness after high-fiber and low-calorie food, even on a relatively empty stomach, is called ‘phantom fullness’. The advantage is that you eat less when you feel that you are full. And that ensures that you maintain your weight more easily.
6. Lower risk of diabetes
Various studies have shown that people who eat a lot of fiber have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. It is not entirely clear how this is achieved. Does the dietary fiber immediately reduce the risk of someone developing diabetes? Or are people who eat a lot of fiber less overweight because they feel ‘full’ faster because of the fiber? In any case, the feeling of satiety plays a role in fiber: those who are full eat less and those who eat less are less overweight, an important risk factor for diabetes.
Another factor is the fact that fiber ensures that sugars are absorbed by the body more slowly. This keeps the blood sugar level more stable.
7. First Aid for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Fiber if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)? Doesn’t that give you even more stomach ache? You can if you eat insoluble fiber. They stimulate the intestinal wall. But soluble fiber does not bother people with IBS. In fact, research by the UMC Utrecht shows that they could sometimes benefit from soluble fiber. According to the researchers, these fibers actually reduce stomach pain.
8. Lower risk of cancer
According to researchers at the World Cancer Research Fund, we could prevent 12 percent of colon cancer cases per year if everyone consumed enough fiber. This amounts to more than eighteen hundred cases of colon cancer per year in the Netherlands. The scientists think this is mainly due to the fact that dietary fiber has a beneficial effect on bowel movements.
As a result, food passes through the intestines faster and possible harmful substances are present in the intestines for less time. There are also indications that the breakdown of fermentable dietary fibers by bacteria in the colon release certain fatty acids that stop the growth of cancer cells. Researchers at Harvard Chan School of Public Health showed two years ago that fiber reduces the risk of breast cancer.
9. Fibers are ‘everywhere’
‘Good source of fiber’, ‘with extra fiber’, ‘rich in fiber’… From baby food to bread. It seems as if all supermarket products contain fiber. The fact that you see that fiber claim pop up so often is because many manufacturers add extra fiber to give products a healthier image. Fortunately, the claim is bound by rules: with the claim ‘source of fiber’ there must be three grams of fiber in one hundred grams of product, with ‘rich in fiber’ double that.
According to the Consumers’ Association, there is a catch with these regulations: products that weigh little, such as biscuits, contain very little fiber per portion. Often these products are very rich in sugar, so you can question the health value of the claim ‘extra fiber’ or ‘high fiber’. The golden rule of fiber is: you get the most from foods that are fiber rich in themselves. These are often the foods without claims, such as whole grain products, fruits, vegetables and brown rice.
How do you easily eat more fiber? You can read that here.