The Remarkable 7 Benefits of Dietary Fiber for Your Health

Dietary fiber, also known as roughage, is a part of plant foods that is indigestible. It cannot be broken down by human digestive enzymes. We have heard a lot that fiber should be a part of our diet for our overall health but very few know what, when, and how of it.

What is Dietary Fiber?

Fiber is a source of carbohydrate that passes through the body undigested. It consists of cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin, oligosaccharides, pectin, gums, and waxes. Fiber keeps a check on blood sugar levels. Fiber comes from animal and chemical sources whereas dietary fiber refers to fiber from plant food sources. Dietary fiber has two main components: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Plant food contains both these types in different amounts. They play diverse roles in gastrointestinal health. Cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin are not soluble in water whereas pectin, gum become gummy in water. A high level of cellulose is found in the root and green leafy vegetables. Soluble fiber dissolves in sugar and helps lower glucose levels as well as blood cholesterol levels. Examples of soluble fiber are apples, blueberries, oatmeal, nuts, lentils, beans, etc. Insoluble fiber is highly beneficial because, being insoluble in water, it helps food mover regularly and prevents constipation. Examples of insoluble fibers are wheat, whole wheat bread, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Children, as well as adults, need 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day to have a healthy gut. Fiber intake, ideally, should increase with age.

Food Items Rich In Dietary Fiber

Eat fruits instead of fresh fruit juice, whole wheat bread, whole grain products, cereal for breakfast, raw vegetables, beans, and legumes instead of meat. Sources of soluble fiber are oatmeal and oat bran, apple, citrus fruits, strawberries, beans, peas and lentils, barley, and rice bran. Sources of insoluble fiber are cereal bran, whole-wheat bread, wheat cereals, and wheat bran. Foods like nuts are both soluble and insoluble.

Benefits Of Dietary Fiber

  • Weight Loss: You can shed pounds by just adding fiber to your diet. Fiber keeps you full for longer and prevents you from absorbing the calories that you eat. Fiber can also prevent you from putting back all the pounds that you lose. Weight management is way easier with fiber.
  • Diabetes: Dietary fiber is a must-have for diabetes patients because fiber slows glucose absorption from the small intestine into our blood. This reduces the chance of an insulin surge – a hormone produced in the pancreas to stabilize blood glucose levels.
  • Bowel Cancer: Fiber reduces bowel cancer risk by increasing stool bulk, diluting possible carcinogens, in the diet, and decreasing the passage time through the colon. The bacterial fermentation of fiber leads to the production of short-chain fatty acids which have protective benefits for the body.
  • Better Gut Health: The gut bacteria take up the fiber and produce short-chain fatty acids which in turn lower systemic inflammation, which is linked to major health problems. Staying consistent with fiber is key to a healthy gut.
  • Longevity: It is a proven fact that a high-fiber diet facilitates a disease-free life.
  • Natural Detox: Fiber releases out all the toxins from our system. Insoluble fiber not only takes out toxins but does that without giving the toxins the opportunity to get absorbed, being insoluble in nature. The faster they leave, the lesser are the chances to cause any harm.
  • Stronger bones: Food items like legumes and asparagus that contain soluble fiber increase the bioavailability of calcium which is great for maintaining bone density.

Dietary Fiber Supplements

Fiber supplements can be an option for those who don’t have enough dietary fiber in their diet. The fiber found in supplements or fortified foods is called functional fiber. Fiber supplements can also be used for curing diarrhea and severe constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. If you want to treat constipation, you should inculcate soluble fiber and vice-versa.

You always consult your doctor before starting any kind of supplement. If you take any other regular medication, it might interact with the drugs. Read the labels very carefully.

Do not forget to drink 8 ounces of water every day. Not staying hydrated can make the fiber swell hence making the stool harder to pass and may even cause choking.

One thing that you can do if you want to keep a check on your fiber intake is to maintain a journal. Remember supplements might help you with constipation but cannot help you with high cholesterol levels. Just go slow.

Do not add a lot of fiber too quickly, observe how your body reacts to it because too much fiber can cause bloating, gas and cramping. There are a lot of risks associated with supplements. Rarely, but supplements have caused intestinal blockages. The sugar and salt in the supplements can be detrimental to the health of people with diabetes and high blood pressure. People with diabetes might want to avoid supplements with diabetes. It is possible to get too much fiber as well. By adding 50 grams or more of fiber to your diet, you can hurdle the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.

Do not forget to monitor how much fiber you are getting from your diet as well as your supplements.

All in all, supplements might be useful for you but surely not in the long run as you cannot sustain supplements for your entire life. Fiber from natural sources is the best thing that you can do for yourself. One must eat in awareness, keep a check on the nutrient density of your diet.