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Got Fiber?

Aug. 1, 2014|786 views
stock photo fruits and vegetable baskets Spread

Do you ever have problems with your digestion, problems with regularity? What about your cholesterol? Have you been told it's too high?

I have a solution for you that can solve both issues. Fiber.

Fiber is the unsung hero of the diet. They used to call it roughage; a name that hinted at people's disdain for this useless portion of food; this undigestible part that provides bulk to the stool and little else.

Except that's inaccurate. Fiber, both soluble and insoluble, is a crucial part of the diet.

Fiber comes from plant foods. It true that it helps provide bulk to the stool. And that does help with regularity. But perhaps even more importantly, it provides sustenance to the kind of healthful gut bacteria that thrive on this particular "waste" portion of your food. Fiber keeps them happy. And that, we are increasingly coming to realize, helps keep us happy.

Happy gut bacteria keep other, more harmful bacteria at bay. They also work to enhance the functioning of the immune system. There's even evidence that the makeup of your gut "microbiome" can affect your mood, and influence inflammation in the body. These helpful microbes also help us extract certain nutrients that would otherwise remain unavailable to us. Bacteria in the gut break down certain compounds in cocoa, for instance, which are believed to be highly beneficial. Without the assistance of friendly gut bacteria, these remarkably beneficial compounds would pass through, unavailable to us.

So eating plenty of fruits and vegetables—plenty of fiber—is healthful in numerous ways. It's not just the carbs, fat, or protein you get from plants. Nor is it just the vitamins, minerals, and unique phytonutrient antioxidants you get from plant foods. It's also the dietary fiber that benefits your digestion on several levels.

And, by the way, some forms of fiber have been shown to help "scrub" "bad" LDL-cholesterol from the bloodstream. So keep eating those whole grains, beans, legumes, seeds, nuts, root vegetables, and other high-fiber plant foods to stay optimally healthy.

Tags:  dietary fiber, health tips