Fiber is arguably the most underappreciated nutrient on the planet. Fat, protein, and carbs are traditionally considered to be the three golden “macronutrients.” However, it could easily be argued that dietary fiber is so important for our overall health that it might be considered the fourth macronutrient.
Interested in learning more? Read on to explore everything you need to know about fiber and macronutrients.
Macronutrients 101: What You Need To Know
In the simplest form, macronutrients are the elements in food needed for an individual to grow and function optimally. They’re needed in large quantities in comparison to other essential nutrients, which is why they’re called “macro” nutrients and are commonly referred to as “macros.” Micronutrients or “micros,” on the other hand, are molecules we need in small quantities—but equally as important—such as vitamins and minerals.
Generally, macros are broken down into three groups: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Alcohol is also considered a macronutrient since it provides calories, but it’s not considered an important source of nutrition, so booze is always left out when counting macros.
Each macro provides a different calorie per gram—four grams per calorie for carbs and protein and nine grams of calories for fat. Along with energy, all of these macros play specific roles in your body that allow you to function at your best.
Did you know that all carbs are eventually broken down into glucose—aka sugar—which is the main energy source for your body? Yup, it’s true—in fact, specific organs, such as your noggin, rely on glucose in order to function properly.
Beyond being your primary fuel source, there are carbs that help synthesize specific amino acids and allow for consistent bowel movements. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be broken down by your GI tract. That said, this essential nutrient doesn’t provide your body with energy, but it does do wonders to help rid your body of toxins and waste, ultimately keeping your intestinal tract in tip-top shape.
Despite what many people may think, your body has a work-around when carbs aren’t exactly present for extended periods of time—or possibly forever—using protein and fat instead for energy instead. This is how the popular ketogenic diet works!
Protein is the “builder” macronutrient, and unlike carbohydrates, it’s essential for good health, allowing your body to grow, build, and repair tissues while protecting lean body mass.
Proteins are made of amino acids, many of which your body can make itself. However, there are nine amino acids that are strictly required for normal body function that your body can’t biosynthesize. These are called essential amino acids, and the full nine can be found from all meat sources. Unfortunately for those living a strict plant-based lifestyle, it’s rare to find the full nine in grains and legumes, so you need to make sure you eat a variety to get all of them.
Fats are an excellent long-term source of energy and also play an essential role in many things, such as maintaining healthy hair and skin, hormone regulation, insulating body organs against shock, promoting healthy cell function, and maintaining body temperature. Needless to say, this is one important macro!
OK—What Is Fiber?
Dietary fiber—aka bulk or roughage—includes all parts of plant food that your body can’t absorb or digest. You see, unlike other food components, like carbs, protein, and fats, which your body naturally breaks down and absorbs, fiber isn’t digested by your body. Instead, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, colon, and then out of your body.
Dietary fiber is commonly broken down into two forms—soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber is a type of fiber that absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance. This gel causes digestion to slow down, which can be especially beneficial for weight loss.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, is the type of fiber that—you guessed it—repels water. You can find insoluble fiber in many foods such as fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds. Its main benefit is to provide bulk to your stool and support its journey through the digestive tract.
What Are The Benefits Of Eating Fiber?
Fiber plays a pretty essential role in any diet. It’s crucial for keeping your gut healthy and happy while reducing the risk of many chronic health conditions. That said, most people in the U.S don’t get enough fiber from their diets, with some estimates suggesting only five percent of the population meet the adequate intake recommendations. This means that most Americans could get health benefits from increasing their daily fiber intake.
Incorporating fiber into your diet has many health benefits, such as:
Benefit #1: You Burn More Calories—Zero Effort Required
Yup, you read that right—even without spending countless hours in the gym, you’ll torch more calories when you double your fiber intake from 12 grams to 24 grams per day, according to recent research. Fiber naturally boosts metabolism because your body can’t digest fiber—but attempts to—burning major calories in the process.
Benefit #2: Cholesterol Goes Down
Think of fiber as a sponge. Soluble fiber, specifically, has been connected to lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Find it in apples, strawberries, and oat bran. Fiber has absorbent properties, binding to circulating cholesterol and eliminating it from the body.
Benefit #3: Energy Goes Up
Put the sugary energy drink down and step away from the coffee machine. Eat a high fiber diet for an instant power up—without the jitters or notorious sugar crash—instead. Consuming fiber and protein together can help to keep your blood glucose levels steady, providing your body with sustained energy throughout the day.
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Benefit #4: Inflammation Decreases
Fiber is a prebiotic that plays a fundamental role in the health of your gut and is important for combating inflammation and lowering overall disease risk. According to one recent study, researchers explain that fiber acts as a natural protective armor against C-reactive protein (CRP), a telltale sign of acute inflammation. When CRP is coursing through your blood, you’re much more likely to develop cardiovascular disease or blood sugar issues down the road.
Benefit #5: Smoother Digestion
Foods rich in fiber, including berries, whole grains, nuts, and beans, make everything you eat go down easier. You see, soluble fiber combines with water to form a thick gel-like substance that creates bulk while insoluble fiber moves food through. That said, a high fiber diet will promote more regular digestion and less constipation.
So, is fiber a macronutrient, you ask?
Not exactly. The three macronutrients include carbohydrates, protein, and fat. But even though fiber is technically not considered a macro, its importance shouldn’t be underestimated. Dietary fiber’s role in promoting healthy digestion, detoxification, and reducing inflammation put it in the running for the title of “fourth macronutrient.” For this reason, always be sure to consider the fiber content when grocery shopping and preparing healthy meals for yourself and your family.
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Whether you’re trying to increase your daily fiber intake or simply on the hunt for a delicious guilt-free snack, Uprising has your back. Check out Uprising Food today and experience clean ingredients tomorrow. Trust us—you’ll be glad you did.