“Eat more fiber!” This is what I hear from my doctor each time I have constipation or diarrhea, while I’m just craving for some chemicals to help me recover fast, and also to make my visit worth its cost.
In fact, dietary fiber has a surprisingly positive effect on your body. It has been famous, since ancient Greece, for its capacity to prevent various digestive problems such as constipation and diarrhea, and still today, research after another, are highlighting some of its amazing benefits.
So, what exactly is dietary fiber? Why is it so essential in our diet? And what foods are considered high-fiber?
What is dietary fiber?
Fiber is a complex material, and its composition varies from one food to another, but generally, it defines as the parts of plants that cannot be digested by the digestive system. These include cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectin, lignin, gum, mucilage as well as other components.
Unlike carbohydrates, proteins, or minerals, fiber cannot be absorbed or broken down by the body, but it stays intact while moving through the digestive tract, absorbing the excessive water like a sponge. This helps regulate the movement of food in the intestines by adding more volume and more softness to our stool.
Dietary fiber types.
Fiber can be classified as soluble, and insoluble.
– Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber dissolves in water. It includes pectin, gum, and mucilage. When it comes in contact with liquids, it becomes viscous and forms a gel-like material, to facilitate sliding of the residue. Therefore, it reduces the absorption of fats, bad cholesterol and triglycerides and prevents cardiovascular disease. Moreover, it has the advantage of slowing the absorption of carbohydrates and thus slowing down the rise of blood glucose, which is essential in the prevention of type 2 diabetes.
– Insoluble Fiber
Insoluble fiber function in a different way. It does not dissolve in water. It is essentially composed of lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose, which are powerful absorbents; they accelerate the transit and contribute to the control of appetite and weight. Also, they promote a regular functioning of the intestine and keep the digestive system healthy. Moreover, this type of fiber increases the elimination of carcinogenic substances and prevent colorectal cancers.
Benefits of high-fiber diet for your health
Dietary fiber is more famous for making our visits to the toilet less painful, although, their benefits are numerous and have a remarkable effect on the body:
- It has a satietogenic effect. It reduces the appetite and makes us feel full for a longer period, which makes them essential in hypocaloric diets.
- Reduces cholesterol and triglycerides absorption. The reason why high-fiber foods are particularly important for people suffering from hypercholesterolemia or hypertriglyceridemia.
- Helps the development of the intestinal flora, maintain the proper functioning of the digestive system and stimulate the immunity.
The microorganisms that live in our intestines feed on fiber (soluble fiber more particularly) and use its components to develop and proliferate. Thus, a healthy intestinal flora is essential for the proper functioning of the digestive system as it helps to break down and ingesting certain foods. In addition to that, the intestinal flora plays a primordial role in defending the body against viruses and harmful microbes.
- Decreases the risk of diabetes. By reducing carbs absorption, dietary fiber helps regulate blood sugar levels and decrease blood glucose peaks after meals.
- Reduces the risk of colon cancer. This is one of the most amazing benefits of fiber; it promotes the movement in the digestive tract, reducing the contact time between toxic elements in the food we eat and the intestinal mucosa, draining the entire carcinogenic residue out of the body.
Disadvantages of fibers?!
We have seen the tremendous benefits of dietary fiber. Now, let us have a look at its downsides of it.
We have seen that fiber can be a powerful absorbent. This characteristic carries one tiny flaw. As fiber absorbs liquids in the bowel, it partially traps a portion of certain minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus…) inside of it and prevents the body from fully taking advantage of them.
Another disadvantage of fiber is that they easily ferment in the colon causing bloating and flatulence, but this only happens when we consumed in high amounts of it.
The recommended daily intake of fiber
Nowadays, our diet contains less and less fiber; this is mainly due to our excessive consumption of refined and processed food. In the US the average daily intake of fiber among adults is about 15g, in France it is 16g, and around 18g in the UK, while the recommended daily amount is:
– 25g for women.
– 35 to 40g for Men.
For children, we add 5 to the age (for example a 5 years old child should consume about 10g of fiber every day).
The Top 22 high-fiber foods you should know about.
To reach your daily intake of fiber, you should know about foods that contain high amounts of it. This way it will be easier for you to manage your diet and meet the optimal quantity every day.
The following is a list of 22 high-fiber foods you can add to your diet.
|#||Food||Amount of fiber (per 100g)|
|10||Cooked split peas||10,6g|
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