Fiber refers to types of carbohydrates that the body cannot break down or absorb. Even though your body cannot absorb it, fiber is a necessary nutrient as it helps maintain health in various body systems. The average person should consume between 20 and 35 grams of fiber each day; but according to the Joslin Diabetes Center, most Americans only consume half that amount.
High-fiber foods have more density, meaning that they require more chewing time, which gives your body more time to register that it’s full. High-fiber foods also sit longer in your stomach before moving through the rest of your digestive tract, which helps you feel fuller longer and reduce snacking between meals.
Digestive Tract Regulation and Health
Fiber helps regulate the digestive tract and bowel movements by slowing down the progression of stools. This helps the body absorb more water. Also, fiber adds bulk to stools, making them soft and easier to pass and reducing the incidence of constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. Soft and bulky stools may also help sweep out toxins and carcinogens from the colon, according to Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology.
Soluble fiber found in oats, oat bran, beans and some fruits helps to reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein, or bad, cholesterol by inhibiting its absorption into the bloodstream. High levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol can lead to heart disease.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Fiber slows down the absorption of the sugar in the digestive system. This helps maintain even levels of blood sugar and reduce the incidence of potentially dangerous blood sugar spikes. People with diabetes who eat at least 50 grams of fiber per day may be able to control their blood glucose levels better than those who eat less.
Bloating, Cramping and Flatulence
Increasing dietary fiber does not have many cons. However, because fiber does absorb water, you must increase water intake as you increase fiber. Consuming too little water while increasing fiber intake can cause bloating, cramping and increased flatulence as fiber moves through the digestive tract. You should increase your fiber intake slowly daily until you reach the recommended daily value.