When it comes to a healthy diet, we are constantly dealing with buzzwords being thrown at us — but it turns out that dietary fiber is much more than just a crazy term or fad that can be ignored. Eating a fiber-rich diet is extremely important and absolutely imperative to keep bodily functions running smoothly.
Yet to most of us, fiber still remains a mystery.
Fiber is the part of plant foods that your body can't digest or absorb. It is also referred to as roughage or bulk.
"By classification, fiber is considered an indigestible carbohydrate," explains Dr. Elaine Rancatore of 2RHealth.
But fiber is very different from other carbohydrates — and much lower in calories.
Don't let the term "indigestible" throw you off. Although fiber is not digestible, it is good for the body in many ways, says naturopathic physician Wendy Wells.
"Eating fiber increases the immune system in your gut, feeds the good probiotic bacteria there, keeps the digestive lining healthy and absorbs and pulls out excess hormones, cholesterol, fat and toxins from the body," Wells says.
And pulling out those toxins is part of what make fiber so important.
"Many of the health problems we face start from a poor or sluggish digestion caused from built-up waste material in our colon," says Siv Sjöholm, nutrition expert and founder of Success is Vitality. "Fiber helps us digest and pass the foods we eat. By increasing our fiber intake, we decrease the risks of common diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity."
But the benefits of fiber don't stop there. Nutrition and wellness coach Michelle Pfennighaus outlined these added bonuses:
There are two types of dietary fiber, and you need both.
Insoluble fiber adds the bulk needed to clean out the colon and regulate bowel movements. This fiber, or roughage, acts like a sponge. As it absorbs water, it swells inside your intestine and produces a feeling of fullness. The insoluble fiber moves through the digestive system to remove waste, toxins and materials your body doesn't need.
Soluble fiber comes from fruit, some vegetables, brown rice, beans, barley peas, lentils, oats and bran. Soluble fiber mixes with water and digestive enzymes made by the liver to create a gel. This gel works chemically to prevent and reduce the body's absorption of substances that may be harmful. It is soluble fiber that helps control blood sugar and reduces cholesterol.
To increase your fiber intake, try adding these foods to your diet:
Before you go, check out our slideshow below.
Originally published April 2012. Updated March 2017.
And you'll see personalized content just for you whenever you click the My Feed .
SheKnows is making some changes!