So, you probably hear the term “fiber” thrown out there a lot. But what exactly is fiber? How exactly do you get fiber? And most importantly, what exactly does fiber do? This article is here to help.
To start, you’re most likely familiar with dietary fiber. Its complete definition is, “nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin that are naturally occurring in plants,” AKA the stuff derived from the edible parts of plants that can’t be broken down by human digestive enzymes. There’s also functional fiber, which is mainly fiber added into foods during processing that has shown beneficial physiological effects. Many fibers such as cellulose, beta-glucans, resistant starches, fructans, pectin, and lignin are classified as both. Because several fibers are both dietary and functional, you don’t have to worry too much about the differences. But, there are some variations in types of fiber that you should be aware of for your plant-based diet. Please welcome both soluble and insoluble fiber to your next dinner party.
Soluble fiber will dissolve in water and is highly fermentable, producing gases when digested. These gases include hydrogen, methane, and carbon dioxide. Short chain fatty acids are produced as well. These products all help to stimulate water and electrolyte absorption. Also, they increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut to keep your stomach happy. Soluble fiber additionally contains viscous properties so a viscous solution will form in the gut after digestion. This viscosity trait slows emptying, keeping you feeling satisfied longer. The viscous solution also helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels and normalize blood sugar.
Insoluble fiber on the other hand can’t be dissolved in water but rather absorbs water. Because of this, insoluble fiber is a bulk-producing agent. This helps to regulate your bathroom cycle by keeping you nice and frequent.
Altogether, soluble and insoluble are great additions to your diet and can help protect against risk for obesity, heart disease, colon cancer, and diabetes. In fact, many foods high in fiber are high in both of these types! If you plan it out, often times you can get the most bang for your buck with just a simple meal. Already being vegan, you’re at a fiber advantage — the foods with the most fiber are whole grains, legumes, and nuts and seeds. Also fruits and vegetables have a great medley of soluble and insoluble fiber to keep your diet varied. It is recommended that males get 38 grams total and females get 25 grams total of daily fiber every day. Check out these 5 fiber-packed delicious dishes for ideas for meal time.
Navy beans have 76 percent of your daily value of fiber. Most of that fiber is soluble fiber so pair this dish with a side of cauliflower or zucchini to up your insoluble count!
One cup of cabbage contains 18 percent of your daily value of fiber, making it a very good source. Most of its fiber is cellulose which is soluble. The skins of apples are also packed with cellulose.
You just can’t go wrong with oatmeal. Really, oatmeal is a 5 star meal for fiber intake. Not only do oats have a bunch of fiber, but you can add fruit to boost that number up even more. Take this baked apricot oatmeal recipe for example. Apricots? Good source of fiber! Raspberries, strawberries, pears, plums, and bananas are fiber-rich friends to add to oatmeal as well.
4. Sophie Dal
Lentils — a vegan’s favorite protein and fiber duo all in one little legume. Don’t forget the broccoli and kale here, other great sources of fiber!
Avocados are one fruit packed with insoluble fiber.
***Note: It’s best to maintain a healthy fiber status through whole foods. Fiber supplements can sometimes hike your intake too high resulting in mineral deficiencies by reducing absorption or increasing excretion of minerals.