Food & Nutrition

10 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Start Eating More Fiber

Eating enough fiber not only helps keep you regular, it can help you lose weight, lower cholesterol, and decrease your risk of developing kidney stones and type 2 diabetes

There are two types of fiber

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According to U.S. dietary guidelines, adults should consume anywhere between 25 and 30 grams of dietary fiber from food (not supplements) daily, but most are only getting about 15 grams, about half the recommended amount. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and both play important roles in helping us to maintain healthy digestion and fight off diseases. “Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel, acting like a sponge in binding cholesterol-rich bile acids, which are then eliminated as waste,” says Melissa Majumdar, RD, senior bariatric dietitian at Brigham and Women’s Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson. This cholesterol-lowering type of fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus, carrots, barley, and fiber supplements that use psyllium husk, she explains. Insoluble fiber, which is found in wheat bran, whole-wheat flour, nuts, beans, potatoes, and vegetables such as cauliflower and green beans, adds bulk to our stool and helps move food through the digestive tract. “Insoluble fiber aids in digestion by acting like a broom and cleaning out our intestinal track,” says dietitian Angel Planells, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Here are 30 ways to get more fiber.

Lower your cholesterol and risk for cardiovascular disease

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Adding whole-grain dietary fiber as part of a healthy diet may help improve blood cholesterol levels, and lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to the American Heart Association. Soluble fiber is what lowers LDL cholesterol—it can also reduce inflammation in the body and lower blood pressure, says Planells. “When soluble fiber enters the small intestine, it acts like a sponge and binds the cholesterol, and doesn’t allow it to be absorbed into the body,” he says. Good sources of soluble fiber include legumes, psyllium, flaxseeds, oats, and oat bran. “Start the day with either steel cut or regular oats—both are a great way to reduce your cholesterol levels.”

Drop your risk for type 2 diabetes

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Eating more fiber is not only good for heart health; research indicates it can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes. When we add fiber to our diet, our bodies break down carbs more slowly, and this allows our blood sugar levels to rise more gradually, explains Planells. “Rather than eat simple grains or pasta, which are absorbed rapidly because the sugar is broken down quickly, choose a whole grain such as quinoa, legumes, oats, or farro, which give you better control over blood sugar.” Steal this cheat sheet of 15 superfoods for diabetics.

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