Health Benefits of Fiber
Fiber is a plant-derived carbohydrate that cannot be digested by humans, so it passes through your system relatively intact and has little to no caloric value. There are two types of fiber: Soluble and insoluble.
Dissolves in water and can be metabolized by the “good” bacteria in the gut. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, nuts, peas, lentils, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
It does not dissolve in water. This form of fiber aids in the passage of materials through the digestive system and increases stool bulk, making it useful for people who have constipation or irregular stools. The best sources to get insoluble fiber are whole wheat bread, wheat bran, nuts, beans, brown rice, legumes and vegetables including carrots, cucumber, cauliflower, tomatoes, green beans and potatoes.
Different plant foods have different amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber. Eat a wide range of high-fiber foods to get the most health benefits.
Why Dietary Fiber is Essential for a Healthy Diet
Dietary fiber, which is often found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes is best known for its ability to prevent and alleviate constipation. Fiber-rich foods will also help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer. It is not difficult to select tasty foods that contains fiber.
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Fiber is a nutrient that is needed for good health. Men should aim for about 38 grams of fiber a day, or 14 gram for every 1,000 calories, while women should aim for about 25 grams.
- Maintains Bowel Movements
Dietary fiber softens and raises the weight and size of your stool. Constipation is less likely with a bulky stool since it is easier to move. Fiber, which absorbs water and adds bulk to the stool, can help to solidify it if you have loose, watery stools. Hemorrhoids and small pouches in the colon can be avoided by consuming a high-fiber diet. A high-fiber diet has also been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in studies. In the colon, some fiber is fermented. Researchers are investigating how this could help to prevent colon diseases.
- Prevent Breast Cancer
Women who consume more high-fiber foods, such as vegetables and fruit, during adolescence and young adulthood may have a lower risk of breast cancer than those who eat less dietary fiber.
- Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Soluble fiber, which can be found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran, can help lower total blood cholesterol by lowering levels of low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol. High-fiber foods can also have other heart health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and inflammation.
- Helps to Control Diabetes
Fiber, particularly soluble fiber, can help people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels by slowing sugar absorption. Insoluble fiber, along with a healthy diet, such as diet high in cereal fiber was linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Suggestion for Best Fiber Choices
- Instead of consuming fruit juices, eat whole fruits
- Use brown rice and whole grain goods instead of white rice, pizza and pasta
- Instead of chips, crackers, or chocolate bars, snack on raw vegetables
- In chili and soups, use beans or legumes instead of meat two to three times a week
- Pick whole grain cereals for breakfast
Good selections include:
- Whole-grain products
- Beans, peas and other legumes
- Nuts and seeds
Fiber content is lower in refined or processed foods, such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas and non-whole-grain cereals. The outer coat (bran) of the grain is removed during the grinding process, lowering the fiber content. Few B vitamins and iron are added back to enriched foods after processing, but not fiber. Fiber-rich foods are beneficial to your health. However, consuming too much fiber too fast can result in intestinal gas, bloating and cramping. Over the course of a few weeks, steadily increase your fiber intake. This gives your digestive system’s natural bacteria time to adapt to the transition. Drink plenty of water as well. Fiber performs best as it absorbs water, resulting in a soft, bulky stool.
Written by: Fatima Sarfraz and Dr. Saima Tehseen