Fiber helps with good resistance and reduces the risk of diabetes and some types of cancer. Yet we eat far too little of it. Fortunately it is not difficult at all to screw up the fiber intake.
1. Good for bowel movements
Fiber, also called dietary fiber, comes from the cell wall of plants. They are mainly found in vegetables, fruit, bread, legumes, breakfast cereals, nuts, seeds and potatoes. That they are so good for bowel movements is because they cannot be digested in the small intestine. They therefore arrive in their entirety in the large intestine. There they stimulate the intestinal wall, which increases the intestinal movement and thus also the speed at which the stool passes through the intestinal tract.
Sufficient fiber is important at any age, but especially as we get older. The older we get, the worse the bowel movements become. Forty percent of the over-65s suffer from constipation and in the over-80s this is even more than eighty percent. So eat plenty of whole-grain products, vegetables, fruit, nuts and legumes. And very important: vary. Do not only get your fiber from grains, because eating too much grains has an adverse effect on the intestines. Another tip: if you eat more fiber, you should also drink more. Water increases the volume of the stool and makes the stool softer. With too little moisture a congestion can occur and you help your bowel movement from rain to the drip. So make sure you get enough fluid.
2. Good for the defense
Fiber comes in different types. A rough distinction is made between soluble (fermentable) and insoluble (non-fermentable) fibers. Insoluble fiber is found mainly in whole-grain products, grain products, linseed and nuts. Soluble fiber is found in vegetables, fruit, and legumes.
Both species cannot be digested by the small intestine and therefore arrive in their entirety in the large intestine. The difference lies in the fact that the insoluble fibers remain intact and leave the body through the faeces and that soluble fibers in the large intestine are broken down by bacteria: they are fermented there. And so they serve there as food for our intestinal bacteria and intestinal (epithelial) cells. You can buy these so-called prebiotics ready-made at the drugstore or pharmacy, but they are also in our diet. For example, onion, garlic, leek, cabbage, bananas and legumes are rich in it.
3. Simple to eat more fiber
Only ten percent of people achieve the recommended amount of fiber from 30 to 40 grams per day. This is partly because we started to eat less fruit and vegetables and partly because the food industry started processing grains.
Thirty to forty grams of fiber per day is also quite a lot. For comparison: to get forty grams, you would have to eat eighteen slices of wholemeal bread. However, you can increase your fiber intake considerably if you consciously opt for fiber-rich food. A few tips for more fiber: eat raw vegetables daily with your lunch or dinner: carrots and cabbage are incredibly high in fiber. And always choose whole-grain products. Whole grain means that the entire grain has been processed, including all fibers. Don’t let the shelf for bread fool you by terms such as “Waldkorn” or “multigrain”. That says nothing about the amount of fiber, unless there is also “whole grain” on the label. Brown bread richer in fiber than light brown? The color unfortunately says nothing about the amount of fiber in a loaf. Some producers color their bread brown with malt. Check the box for even more fiber-rich tips.
4. Good for your heart
Research from Tulane University in New Orleans shows that twenty grams of fiber a day reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by twelve percent compared to people who eat only six grams of fiber. Other research shows that fibers also play a role in lowering blood pressure. And that mainly fibers from fruit and cereals such as oats, have a positive effect on cholesterol. According to some researchers, this is because soluble fibers absorb cholesterol from food and remove it through the faeces. This indirectly ensures better blood vessel health.
5. Faster full of fibers
Fiber-rich food ensures a longer lasting saturated feeling. According to Wageningen researchers, this is because fibers really give you a fuller stomach because of their absorbency. Even after the food has disappeared from the stomach, that saturated feeling persists. A study of two years ago showed that a thick fiber-enriched shake with a hundred calories more saturated than a thin shake with five hundred calories. Even when it had disappeared from the stomach, subjects did not feel like eating for a longer period than with the thin calorie-rich shake. The scientists do not yet know exactly why. Probably taste, mouthfeel and a slower eating speed also play a role. This full feeling after high-fiber and low-calorie food, even with a relatively empty stomach, is called “phantom fullness.” The advantage is that you eat less if you feel that you are full. And that makes it easier for you to keep on weight.
6. Lower risk of diabetes
Various studies show that people who eat a lot of fiber have a smaller chance of having type 2 diabetes. It is not entirely clear why this is exactly. Do the dietary fibers immediately make someone less likely to have diabetes? Or are people who eat a lot of fiber less obese because they feel ‘full’ more quickly because of the fibers? In any case, the feeling of satiety with fiber plays a role: those who are full, eat less and those who eat less, are less overweight, an important risk factor for diabetes.
What also plays a role is the fact that fibers ensure that sugars are absorbed more slowly by the body. This keeps the blood sugar level more stable.
7. First aid for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Fibers if you have irritable bowel syndrome (PDS)? Does that not cause you more stomach pain? Yes if you eat insoluble fiber. They stimulate the intestinal wall. But soluble fiber does not bother people with IBS. In fact, research has shown that they might benefit from soluble fibers. According to the researchers, these fibers actually reduce abdominal pain.
8. Lower risk of cancer
According to researchers from the World Cancer Research Fund, we could prevent 12 percent of colon cancer cases a year if everyone ate enough fiber. This amounts to more than eighteen hundred cases of colon cancer per year in the Netherlands. The scientists think that this is mainly due to the fact that dietary fibers have a positive influence on bowel movements. As a result, food passes through the intestines faster and potential harmful substances are not present in the intestine for as long. There are also indications that in the breakdown of fermentable dietary fibers by bacteria in the colon, certain fatty acids are released that prevent the growth of cancer cells. Researchers from Harvard Chan School of Public Health showed two years ago that fiber reduces the risk of breast cancer. Women who eat fiber-rich foods during adolescence and as young adults are considerably less likely to have breast cancer.
9. Fiber is “everywhere”
“Good source of fiber”, “with extra fiber”, “rich in fiber” … From baby food to bread. It seems like there is fiber in all supermarket products. The fact that you see this fiber claim appear so often is because many manufacturers add extra fibers to give products a healthier image. Fortunately, the claim is bound by rules: with the “source of fiber” claim there must be three grams of fiber in a hundred grams of product, with “rich in fiber” double. According to the Consumers’ Association, there is a snag in these regulations: products that weigh little, such as cookies, have very few fibers per portion. Often those products are very rich in sugar, so you can question the health value of the claim “extra fiber” or “fiber-rich”. The golden fiber rule is: you get the most from foods that themselves are high in fiber. These are often foods without claims, such as whole-grain products, fruit, vegetables and brown rice.