Fiber is often touted as one of the most important nutrients for intestinal and gut health. But with all of the advice out there, there’s a lot of focus on fiber and not a lot on where the fiber comes from.
You may be surprised to hear that there are many different kinds of fiber and many different ways to group fibers. One of the key fibers that isn’t discussed much in-depth is plant fiber. So we are here to give you an overview of plant fiber and just how beneficial it is to your health.
Fiber: Super Carbs
Fiber is a category of carbohydrates that cannot be digested by humans. There’s a wide variety of types of fiber that frequently get lumped together when considering our diet. But the truth is, certain fibers are very beneficial to health, and other fibers that can cause digestive issues if you consume too much.
Fiber is found in most plant-based foods like fruits, veggies, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. Fiber is typically broken down into two categories: dietary fiber and functional fiber.
Dietary fiber is simply fiber found naturally in foods, while functional fiber is extracted from whole foods and added later in production to processed foods. But there are major problems with classifying fibers only in this way, namely, that it doesn’t tell us very much about the health effects of the fibers.
There are a few different ways to classify fibers that are more useful when considering their impact on our health.
Plant Fiber—What Is It and Where Does It Fit In?
Most fiber comes from plants. When fiber is consumed from plants, it is often the cellulose of the plant cells that is the source of fiber. Your body cannot break down the cellulose, and so it passes through our digestive tract mostly intact. Plant fiber is the best source of fiber you can get in your body.
Other Ways of Classifying Fiber
There are few other ways of classifying fiber besides dietary and functional fiber, which are more useful when determining the health benefits of particular fibers.
The two ways of classifying that we will discuss are soluble versus insoluble and fermentable versus non-fermentable.
Soluble and Insoluble Fiber
The first alternate way to classify fibers is based on their solubility in water. If a fiber dissolves in water, then it is soluble. If not, it is classified as insoluble. This is important to our digestion because there is water in our stomach, so when fibers make it through our intestinal tract and end up in our stomach, they are dissolved in the stomach or remain unchanged. Plants have different portions of soluble and insoluble fiber.
For fibers that do not dissolve in water, they will pass through your whole digestive system intact. For this reason, insoluble fibers are often used as bulking agents, and they can be used to help promote the passage of waste through our bodies.
On the other hand, soluble fiber comes into contact with the water in our stomach and creates a thicker, gel-like substance that is very beneficial to the microbiome of our gut.
Fermentable and Non-fermentable Fiber
While we humans cannot digest fiber, the bacteria in our guts can—sometimes. We have trillions of bacteria in our guts that make up the microbiome of our digestive tract. These bacteria are responsible for assisting our bodies to digest food and eliminate waste—and without our gut bacteria, we would not be able to survive.
But our gut bacteria cannot digest all kinds of fiber. The fibers our gut bacteria can digest are called fermentable fibers, and those that our gut bacteria can not digest are called non-fermentable fibers.
Fermentable fibers are the food source for our gut bacteria, so consuming enough fermentable fibers is essential to promoting a healthy gut. That said, there is such thing as too much of a good thing. The fermentation of fiber creates byproducts, gas, which can cause indigestion, flatulence, and stomach discomfort in too high of a volume.
The Benefits of Plant Fiber to Our Bodies
So now that we know all about the classifications of fibers, we can discuss the benefits of fiber. Most of the benefits of fiber come from soluble fibers and fermentable fibers. But there are a few benefits to insoluble and unfermentable fibers as well. Here is a brief overview:
Soluble fiber can help trap cholesterol in the stomach, preventing it from being absorbed into your blood. By lowering your cholesterol level by increasing your soluble fiber intake, you protect yourself better from cardiovascular disease.
This is one area where insoluble fiber is just as useful as soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool, causing your body to increase bowel movements. If you have only insoluble fiber, your stool can get hard and stiff, making it harder to expel; consuming soluble fiber can help soften your stool and make it easier to expel.
Might Assist People With Diabetes
Consuming a diet that is high in fiber can help stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day. Fiber helps to slow the speed of digestion, particularly the digestion of carbohydrates, and by reducing the rate of digestion, fiber helps to prevent spikes in blood sugar.
A Fun Way To Get Fiber and Prebiotics
Prebiotics are food for our gut bacteria, making them essential for proper gut functioning. And VINA has a great new way of getting your prebiotic fiber—a soda! VINA sodas are sweetened with stevia, so they are super low in calories, and they are designed to be prebiotic.
Give VINA a try if you are trying to increase your fiber intake. You will see some incredible benefits after you include VINA in your diet.
Takeaways About Plant Fiber
Plant fibers are essential to the health of our digestive tract. But not all fiber is the same—you need a good mix of soluble and insoluble fiber and fermentable and non-fermentable fiber to see incredible fiber benefits. The benefits of a high fiber diet include lower cholesterol, constipation relief, and disease prevention.
There are a ton of great ways to get the right kinds of fiber into your system—but our favorite is by drinking VINA prebiotic sodas. Low-calorie, great-tasting, and full of amazing prebiotics to feed your gut microbiome to promote a healthy digestive tract.
Eating a higher fiber diet is one of the best changes you can make to improve your health. And consuming more fiber isn’t too difficult, just increase your consumption of legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—and drink a few VINA sodas along the way. You are well on your way to a healthy gut microbiome.