Fiber is the indigestible portion of plant foods, and — get this — it has zero calories. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, and most foods contain both.
Soluble fiber, the kind found in oatmeal, dissolves in water to create a gel-like substance that attaches to fats and ushers them out of the body. This activity has been found to help lower serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Soluble fiber also minimizes spikes in blood sugar levels.
Insoluble fiber, which doesn’t dissolve during digestion, helps keep our bodies “regular” by retaining water and moving waste through the intestinal tract. Research has shown that insoluble fiber may also be useful in preventing such medical ills as constipation, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, and colon cancer.
One of the most surprising benefits of fiber is that both types can help you lose weight — but not because they burn calories or fat. Fiber-rich foods help people lose weight in two ways: First, fiber provides bulk, which makes you feel full; second, fiber slows digestion, allowing you to feel satisfied longer.
Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, despite all these benefits, the average person consumes less than half of the recommended daily fiber intake of 25 to 30 grams. Anything that comes from plants — including veggies, fruits, whole grains, and beans — is a great source of fiber. So all you have to do is eat more of those good-for-you foods and you’ll get the fiber you need!