A recent report by the NY Times has highlighted the ongoing work by scientists to discover why fiber is so good for you. While scientists are still trying to pinpoint exactly why, they are clear as to its benefits: a diet that is rich in soluble fibers such as oatmeal, beans, and nuts – as well as insoluble fibers found in vegetables, cereals, and whole grains – can help lower the risks of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis, as well as improving heart health. For this reason, fiber has always been recommended as a staple ingredient in balanced diets; it’s hard working and sensible, rather than faddy or glamorous. Remarkably, though, Americans are still only eating around half the daily amount recommended by the American Heart Association (25-30g). That means the majority of people are missing out on the many health benefits it has to offer. Maybe it’s time to celebrate what fiber can do for the rest of your body. Can it really make you more beautiful?
Tipping the scales
A commitment to looking good often includes adopting a healthy, balanced approach to your weight. Not only do insoluble fiber-rich foods fill you up and keep you feeling satisfied for longer (no more snacking on biscuits here and there!), they can also take longer to chew, giving you time to realize that you don’t need to keep eating. Fiber can also bind with sugar and fat molecules in your body and move them through the digestive tract, giving you less time to absorb them and their associated calories. A recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who ate 30g of fiber daily, alongside those who followed a similar diet but without the fiber, lost a significant amount of weight. Of course, beauty can’t be measured on the bathroom scales, but achieving a healthy weight and feeling good about your body will give you a glow that lights up any room. Apples, pears and pistachio nuts are excellent fiber-rich snacks you can keep with you for a tasty treat anytime.
Flawless follicles, fabulous fingers
The spring/summer 2018 catwalk shows were full of tumbling curls and natural looking, healthy hair. Happily, fiber can help you achieve this without setting foot in an expensive salon. The reason? Digesting food that’s rich in soluble fiber helps to give your body time to absorb the protein that it needs. A recently updated Harvard Health blog credits protein as essential to good health. Put simply, it’s a building block for everything in your body from muscle repair to shiny hair. The article goes on to explore just how much protein adults need per day; but regardless of how much you eat, giving your body time to digest it is the key. A structural protein called keratin is one of the key ingredients for healthy hair, as it strengthens your hair follicles. Protein is also used to produce melanin, which gives our hair its natural color and prevents premature grayness. Conversely, a lack of protein in the diet can cause hair to become dry and brittle, and can even lead to hair loss.
Protein is also essential for growing strong, healthy nails. Lean meats, eggs and seafood are excellent low fat sources of protein, but even better, you could try including lentils, kidney beans, and chickpeas within your diet as they are a great source of both fiber and protein. Another mineral which your hair and nails really benefit from is magnesium; try pumpkin seeds for a high-fiber, high-magnesium snack.
Did you know that soluble fiber can help reduce the signs of aging? Again, it’s because it slows down the time taken for your body to digest your food and absorb what it needs. In this case, the necessary nutrients to produce collagen, which gives skin its elasticity and keeps it looking supple and youthful. Your body’s natural collagen production declines with age, which is why it helps to boost this along with foods which contain plenty of fiber and vitamin C, such as kiwi, broccoli, and strawberries.
Fiber-rich foods also famously promote a more efficient digestive system, sweeping toxins, fat and waste out of your body. Left inside, these unwanted by-products can cause breakouts on your skin, which are not only unpleasant, but also potentially scarring. The other key factor in ridding your body of these toxins is water: drink plenty of it each day to help the fiber do its job. Try and cut down on caffeine where possible, as this dehydrates your skin and reduces your collagen levels, effectively cancelling out all the good work your new fiber-rich diet is doing.
Understandably, many of the headlines surrounding the benefits of fiber tend to focus on the serious diseases it can help to combat. After all, for something which is relatively inexpensive and easy to find, fiber has been shown to have remarkable effects on vital parts of the body, including your heart and your bloodstream. It’s also well known for promoting a healthy gut, helping to relieve symptoms of IBS and reducing constipation. However, fiber’s effect on broader body issues – the benefits it offers for weight loss, hair, skin, and nails as above, for example – is no less important. Although it is often forgotten or overlooked, it’s clear that fiber is an essential building block to be included in any balanced diet; how lucky for us that it comes in so many delicious forms. If you’re really struggling to include enough fiber in your diet, you could of course consider supplements. However, ideally, sourcing fiber from any of nature’s tasty options should give you all that you need for a healthier, happier body. Moreover, there are lots of easy ways to include it in your whole family’s diet, and build healthy habits from now.
Fiber needs an opportunity to be celebrated as a one of the most hard working unsung heroes in our diets. Recognizing its beauty credentials might just be the first step.