What Is Fiber?
This part is not so exciting, but it is important to understand what fiber is in order to figure why it is so good for you and how to consume more of it every day. The official definition of fiber is that it is “the indigestible part of plant food that travels through our digestive system.” In simpler terms, this means that fiber is anything in your meal that does not get fully digested and broken down into your body. Instead, it is almost entirely . . . well, disposed of, to put it politely. My first thought on reading that was, “So why do we need something that does not even get digested?” and I am sure you are wondering the same thing. The purpose of fiber, even though it is not digested, is to help all the other foods that do absorb get through your body as smoothly as possible. You can think of fiber as kind of a transport mechanism for the rest of your nutrients, so if the fiber is not working then the rest of your food can get stuck.
Fiber is categorized into different groups—soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is called soluble because it dissolves in water and then forms into a gelatin-type consistency as it goes through the digestive system. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, remains solid the entire way through your digestive system. Soluble fiber attaches to cholesterol on the way out of your body, which can actually help lower your bad cholesterol and your risk of heart disease. It typically does not allow your food to absorb quite as much as other foods, so foods high in soluble fiber (such as oats, peas, beans, carrots, and apples) do not have as many calories as some other foods. Insoluble fiber, found in foods like green beans, wheat bread, and cauliflower, helps you feel more full after your meal so that you do not feel the need to eat as much later. It is the fiber that really keeps your digestive system running smoothly, which leads to an overall more pleasant experience for you.