jennifer-pallian-146555With all the focus on calorie intake in fitness, it can be easy to forget about making sure you’re getting enough fiber in your diet. Good fiber intake can cause weight loss and improve overall health.

Fibers are the edible part of a plant cell wall and a form of carbohydrate essential in digestion. A gram of fiber contains four calories, but isn’t broken down by the body and used for energy, so it can’t contribute to storing fat. Rather, both insoluble and soluble fiber aid digestion by moving product through the body and slowing down the digestive process. We’ll get to more of why slowing digestion is important a little later.

Just forewarning: we’re talking about fiber, so I’ll be talking about digestion and all that it entails. This may seem gross to some. Spoiler alert!

Insoluble Fiber Versus Soluble Fiber

When reading a nutritional label, both insoluble and soluble fiber are measured together under “fiber.” It’s important to know that there are two types of fiber, and getting enough of both is essential to good health.

Soluble means that matter is dissolvable in water. Soluble fiber is softer matter that forms a gel during digestion and attaches to cholesterol, helping to eliminate LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) from the body. Eating foods with soluble fiber keeps the stool soft, preventing issues like hemorrhoids. Foods that have have soluble fiber content include beans, oats, peas, lentils, avocados and nuts.

Insoluble fiber is the tough matter in food that—gross alert—pushes substance through the digestive system and scrapes the digestive tract of old material, keeping the stomach and intestines clean and refreshed.  Foods containing high amounts of insoluble fiber include whole grains, fruits and vegetable.

Helping You Stay Healthy and Fit

Since fiber isn’t broken down during digestion, it increases satiety for longer periods of time and known to aid in weight loss. Fiber lowers bad cholesterol levels and keeps the heart healthy and protected against disease. Not only that, it slows digestion and increases vitamin and mineral absorption, helping you get the most from your foods.

Those that eat enough fiber have been known to boost their immune system and mood. This is accomplished by shifting the ecosystem of the digestive organs to where good bacteria can grow. Studies have proven that fiber is anti-inflammatory and decreases instances of heart disease and diabetes, resulting in lower mortality rates.

How much fiber do you need?

Every person is different, and thus people need different levels of fibers depending on their diets and the way their body works. A general rule to go by is to eat 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories. It’s important not to overeat fiber, as this can cause constipation.

To get enough fiber in your diet, evaluate your current diet and calculate how much you need. Set a goal for the day and prepare foods high in fiber content. A diet filled with whole, plant-based foods will generally have high amounts of fiber. Foods like celery, apples, and nuts contain both soluble and insoluble fibers, making it

Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and all of the above can make up the bulk of a vegan’s diet for the day and easily contain the fiber necessary for a better health. I start every morning off with a bowl of quick oat mixed with a couple generous tablespoons of chia and ground flax seeds, giving me everything I need in the morning to start my day.

What are some good sources of fibers that you like to eat? Share with other readers in the comments!