What Happens If You Don T Eat Fiber

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When we worry about how bad the American diet is, we focus on the amount of sugar, salt, and calories we eat today.

What Happens If You Don T Eat Fiber

What Happens If You Don T Eat Fiber

What we won’t say: excellent ingredients are gone because the dish is filled with more chicken and cheese.

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Fiber. Only 5 percent of people in the United States meet the Institute of Medicine’s daily goals of 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. This is similar to the lack of population – what nutritionists call “fiber.”

“People are so concerned with avoiding carbohydrates, they forget that these foods provide [them] with a large portion of the diet,” says Julie Jones, a nutritionist at the University of in St. Catherine.

Fiber is the closest thing we have to a superfood – or an essential nutrient because it’s part of a variety of foods. Eating a high-fiber diet is associated with better gastrointestinal health and can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even some diseases. tumors. Because fiber is very helpful in many ways: it slows down the absorption of sugar – which balances blood sugar levels – and reduces cholesterol and inflammation.

These benefits increase as you eat more fiber. In a recent Lancet review of 185 studies and 58 clinical trials, researchers found that if 1,000 people switched from a low-carb diet (less than 15 grams per day) to a high (25 to 29 grams per day), they prevent 13 and six diseases. cases of heart disease. (Some researchers have cited not eating high-carb as the “opportunity price” of the ultra-low-carb ketogenic diet.)

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If fiber is medicine, we all eat it. But the average American gets 16 grams a day – half of what we should be eating.

The main reason for this has to do with what we eat today. Instead of eating fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, more than half of the calories Americans consume come from processed foods. On any given day, about 40 percent of Americans eat fast food. These prepared and processed foods have little or no fiber. (A cup of cooked oatmeal has 4 grams of fiber, pears have 6 grams, a McDonald’s hamburger has one gram and no soda.)

This way of eating does not lead to weight gain and the health problems associated with obesity; Our gastrointestinal health is deteriorating in ways that researchers are only just understanding. Because the benefits of fiber are far more complex than what our mothers and grandmothers give us.

What Happens If You Don T Eat Fiber

Not only does fiber help us feel better, it also nourishes our gut microbiome. The science, while still developing, is amazing, and it indicates that the area of ​​fiber can be more harmful than we think.

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Fiber (or “fibers”, according to researchers) is a group of carbohydrates from plants that affect the digestive system in many ways. The main difference between fiber and other carbohydrates, such as starch and sugar, is that they cannot be properly digested or absorbed. And some types of fiber cannot be broken down by the gut microbiome, the diverse ecosystem of bacteria that live in our intestines and colon.

Scientists have learned over the years that fiber can be soluble (meaning it dissolves in water), viscose (forms a gel), or fermentable (can be broken down by bacteria) — and that’s just the beginning. the gastrointestinal tract and affects our health.

Take cellulose, a type of fiber found in fruits and vegetables: insoluble and insoluble. Hemicellulose, found in bran, is not soluble in water and does not form a gel (viscous) but is fermentable. Psyllium, which is contained in Metamucil, is soluble in water, forms skin, and is less fermentable than other fibers. There is another class, called “functional fibers”: industrial but natural fibers (such as inulin or fructan) and synthetic fibers (such as polycarbophil), which can be added to foods and supplements.

Knowing this type is important for our health because different types of fiber have different effects on gut health, says William Chey, professor of gastroenterology and nutrition at the University of Michigan Institute. . Gel-forming fibers like psyllium, for example, retain water. So if your stools are hard, they can rest, says Chey. “If your stools are too loose, water conservation can help.”

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Fermentability is also important, he explains, because it shows whether or not the gut microbiome sees fiber as a food source. Fermentable fiber can cause gas and bloating, so people with these symptoms may want to adjust their diet. Researchers have shown that a low-FODMAP diet – which reduces fermentable foods, including fiber like fructan – can reduce the risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease.

“Most doctors and people think that all fibers are the same,” says Chey. “But different types of fiber have different properties in the gut, especially the microbiome.”

The second thing to know about fiber is that people grow up eating a lot of it. Long before we learned to cook, feed animals, and put McDonald’s on every corner, our relatives – like chimps and bonobos – were frugivore eaters, living mostly on fruits, roots, shoots, nuts and seeds. . There is also a lot of evidence that early humans tried to eat high fiber carbohydrates like oats and acorns.

What Happens If You Don T Eat Fiber

Today, a study of the Hadza people of Tanzania, one of the world’s last remaining hunter-gatherer groups, provides a useful example of how much fiber humans have consumed in the past. -early. Members of the public eat 100 to 150 grams of fiber a day — enough to fill 50 Cheerios bowls, and 10 times what Americans consume, according to NPR. Their daily diet consists of seeds – tubers, fruit, baobab fruit – the Hadza people do not eat processed food.

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Researchers who study the health effects of fiber, including Jens Walter of the University of Alberta, say that the Hadza’s enthusiasm for sand should be remembered as leaving the human diet of fiber.

“In the last 5,000 years, and in the last 100 years, we’ve removed all the fibers,” he said. “The average amount of fiber we consume today is a fraction of what we grew up with.” (Warning: Human societies – such as the Inuit in Greenland – have adapted to life on a meat-heavy diet without many plants, but something else.)

This change is not due to the arrival of processed and fast food in developed economies. More than 10,000 years ago, before the cultivation and breeding of plants, ancient fruits and vegetables were unrecognizable by today’s standards.

Generations of farmers have bred them to be bigger and tastier – often with more sugar and less fiber. Today, mills remove all the grain from our bread and baked goods, which is a great source of fiber, Walter said. Beef has replaced beans and nuts as a protein source in many parts of the world. Researchers are now documenting the effects of these changes on health.

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Because our intestines can’t properly digest fiber, we’ve long known that fiber is good for preventing constipation by adding bulk to the intestines and improving bowel movement.

Another benefit obtained from fiber is also mentioned: It helps us feel full, so we eat less and can lose weight. (There is some debate about the effect of fiber on satiety and appetite. A recent study of research suggests that the effect of fiber here is very clear, although some say that many studies focused on supplements rather than whole foods, which are more satisfying. .)

However, this was all “before people realized that what we don’t eat affects our gut bacteria,” says Eric Martens, a microbiologist at the University of Michigan.

What Happens If You Don T Eat Fiber

Researchers consider fiber’s role in nourishing the gut microbiome — the gut’s microbial ecosystem — to be one of its greatest health benefits. They still don’t know exactly what fiber is good for our gut, but they have an idea.

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Insoluble fiber – which includes soluble and insoluble fiber – is digested by bacteria in the intestinal tract. This process produces chemicals, including short-chain fatty acids, which are an important food source for gut bacteria.

They also bring health benefits, says Martens. Short-chain fatty acids have been shown to promote insulin production, to better control the rise of sugar (or glucose) in our blood, for example, helping to control diabetes. type 2 sugar. In addition, they seem to have anti-inflammatory properties. property.

“If we don’t eat enough fiber, the gut microbiome is starved,” says Jens Walter of Alberta, “that’s it.

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