Besides living longer and having a better quality of life, we know know that being without chronic disease improves our chances of surviving Covid-19. We also know that the key to reducing our risk of dangerous underlying conditions like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity is increasing our intake of fiber.
Dietary fiber comes in two main types:
Soluble fiber – absorbs and dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance, and is digested by bacteria in your large intestine. It helps slow down your digestion and keeps you feeling fuller longer while also slowing the rate at which your blood sugar rises. It also reduces the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream.
Insoluble fiber – does not dissolve and pretty much stays intact as it passes through your colon, helping to move food through your digestive system and reducing or preventing constipation and intestinal blockages.
When fiber is fermented by the bacteria in the colon, it produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). The SCFAs serve as nutrition and the main source of energy for the cells in the colon. They also communicate with your DNA to provide protection against different diseases. The three main SCFAs are Acetate, Butyrate and Propionate.
Acetate regulates the pH of your gut to make sure it’s acidic enough for the good bacteria to live while keeping the bad ones out. It helps regulate your appetite and feeds the good bacteria.
Butyrate feeds the colon cells, helps prevent leaky gut by protecting the gut lining, fights inflammation and cancer activity, as well as protecting the brain.
Propionate also nourishes the good bacteria, regulates your appetite, and helps prevent inflammation as well as protecting against cancer. It also lowers cholesterol and reduces the storage of fat in the body.
Understanding the SCFAs and what they do also helps you to understand how eating more fiber helps you avoid or reduce those dangerous underlying conditions. Reducing inflammation in one of the keys to preventing chronic disease; appetite and blood sugar control help prevent diabetes; appetite control also helps with weight loss; lowering cholesterol, along with avoiding obesity, is important for preventing heart disease. According to summaries of studies and trials conducted over 40 years and published in The Lancet in January 2019, eating a fiber-rich diet results in a 15 – 30% decrease from all causes as well as cardiovascular disease, and a 16 – 24% reduced incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer.
It is recommended that you consume at least 30 grams of fiber every day, and it will all come from plant foods. Soluble fiber is found in beans, peas, lentils, fruits, oats, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Insoluble fiber is in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, wheat bran and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, millet, buckwheat and spelt. Focus on adding whole, high fiber foods to each meal while reducing or eliminating the processed and junk foods. Add greens and berries to your morning smoothies as well as fresh fruit to your oatmeal. Salads can include spinach or kale as well as walnuts for crunch. Use beans and peas in a variety of dishes including casseroles, burritos, veggie bowls and chili along with brown rice, quinoa or whole grain pasta. Snack on nuts, popcorn and fresh fruit. What you choose to eat plays a huge rule in whether you end up healthy or with chronic, underlying disease.