You might have gone through the word “eat more fiber” while flipping through the pages of magazines, in any food labels at grocery stores, or even on a visit to the doctor. What is dietary fiber? And why is it essential in our diet? Let’s take a closer look at what fiber is and how it works in the body.
WHAT IS FIBER?
Fiber, also known as dietary fiber, is a form of carbohydrate found in plant foods. Its structure is made up of a collection of sugar molecules that are tightly bonded together, making it difficult to break down and use as energy. The small intestine cannot digest this fiber similarly to other carbs. Thus, unlike sugar or starch, fiber is not an excellent source of fuel for the body. However, it remains critical to maintaining a healthy diet.
TYPES OF FIBERS
Fiber is sometimes referred to for textile purposes; that is why the two words (fiber and dietary fiber) are used interchangeably. There are two main types of fibers, soluble fibers and insoluble fibers. This classification is made on the basis of chemical, physical, and functional qualities. Soluble fiber is that type that is dissolved in water, and upon its dissolution, it forms a gel-like material, good bacteria that can metabolize it in the gut. This type of fiber is found in foods like oats, barley, nuts, lentils, and some citrus fruits. This type of fiber helps to lower blood glucose levels and improves the cholesterol levels in the body.
The word insoluble “dietary fiber” is the portion of plant foods that our bodies cannot digest. It is the type of healthy carbohydrate also known as complex carbohydrates. Because it cannot be digested, insoluble fiber provides many health benefits as it moves through your gastrointestinal tract.
The insoluble fibers form the structure of the plants. When you eat insoluble fibers, it does not dissolve in water. It cannot be digested by intestinal bacteria, which speeds up the flow of materials through your digestive system. This whole thing helps nutrients be absorbed and can have many beneficial effects on our health, such as preventing constipation. You can find such fibers in wheat, bran, fruit skins, and veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, and potatoes. Whole grains like whole-wheat bread and brown rice contain high amounts of insoluble fiber.
Other synonyms for dietary fiber include ‘bulk’ and ‘roughage,’ which can be deceptive because some types of fiber are water-soluble and hence do not appear bulky or rough.
BENEFITS OF A HIGH DIETARY FIBER DIET
Diet high in fiber can help in the following ways;
1. Bowel Movement
It helps to regulate bowel movements as dietary fiber cannot be digested, it helps to increase the bulk of the stool and also softens it helping in constipation. Many experts feel fiber is vital because it may help maintain the gut wall healthily.
2. Stroke Risk
High dietary fiber consumption is related to a considerably decreased risk of the first stroke.
3. Colorectal Cancer Risk
Colorectal cancer is the third most common kind of cancer worldwide. According to numerous studies, eating a high fiber-rich diet is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer.
4. Promotes Heart Health
Fiber lowers cholesterol. Digestion needs bile acids, which contain cholesterol. To make more bile acid, the liver removes cholesterol from the blood, lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol. Researchers at Harvard discovered that a high total dietary fiber consumption was associated with a 40% decreased incidence of coronary heart disease in over 40,000 male health workers.
5. Obesity Reduction
According to research, nutrients such as fiber significantly affect body weight. Normal-weight have been found to have a higher intake of dietary fiber than obese individuals. Fiber-rich foods are also low in energy density, so they help you feel full without having too many calories.
According to the research of 252 middle-aged women, over a 20-month period, people lost an average of 4.4 lbs due to an increase of 8 g dietary fiber per 1000 kcal. This weight loss was largely fat loss. This connection between dietary fiber and weight change was independent of age, baseline fiber and fat intakes, degree of activity, and baseline calorie consumption. This is why a high fiber diet is linked to a decreased risk of obesity.
6. Breast Cancer Reduction.
A large-scale 2016 study conducted by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health discovered that increasing fiber intake reduced the risk of breast cancer, implying that fiber consumption throughout adolescence and early adulthood may be extremely crucial.
To learn more about ways to prevent breast cancer, check out this article here.
According to some researchers, fiber may truly aid in the extension of human life. According to a meta-analysis of relevant research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, “a high fiber diet may help lower the risk of overall mortality. According to a new study, dietary fiber, which is included in foods such as whole-grain bread, cereal, and pasta, appears to be particularly helpful. Over a 14-year period, people who consumed the most cereal fiber had a 19% lower risk of death than those who consumed the least.
8. Digestive Disorders
One advantage of eating enough fiber is that it can reduce the incidence of diverticulitis, an infection of pouches produced in the colon. Fiber aids in the passage of food through the pouches and through the digestive system. Consume 25–40 g of fiber daily to help minimize your risk of diverticulitis.
9. Allergic Reactions
Fiber may help avoid food allergies, according to research. Again, the gut fiber-bacteria interaction is at the heart of this concept. Scientists believe humans lack the intestinal microorganisms needed to combat common allergens. Without the appropriate bacteria, these allergens can reach circulation via the gut. Fiber contributes to the production of a bacteria called Clostridia, which helps maintain the gut’s security.
10. Additional Benefits
Additionally, evidence is accumulating about fiber’s capacity to influence the immune system, mood, and cognition via the growth of good gut flora.
RECOMMENDED INTAKE OF DIETARY FIBER
The National Institutes of Health has established a recommended daily allowance (RDA) for fiber consumption. The recommended daily dietary fiber intake is 14 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed.
- Men under the age of 50 should take 38 grams of fiber daily, while men over 51 should consume 30 grams.
- Women under 50 should consume 25 grams per day, while those above 50 should consume 21 grams.
Children (4 to 8 years) 18g Girls (9 to 13 years) 20g Girls (14 to 18 years) 22g Boys (9 to 13 years) 24g Boys (14 to 18 years) 28g
Despite this, it is claimed that only approximately 10% of the population consumes the required daily amount.
TOP 20 BEST FOOD SOURCES OF DIETARY FIBERS
Foods high in dietary fiber, along with the amount of fiber they provide, are listed below:
|Foods||Dietary Fiber g/ 100g||Dietary Fiber g/ Cup,Oz|
|1. Chia Seeds||34.4 g||10 g/ Oz|
|2. Flax Seeds||27 g||46 g/ Cup|
|3. Almonds||13.3 g||4 g/ Oz|
|4. Dark Chocolate||10.9 g||3.1 g/ Oz|
|5. Oats||10.1 g||16.5 g/ Cup|
|6. Whole Wheat Pasta||10.1 g||2.6 g/ Oz|
|7. Pecans||9.6 g||10.5g/ Cup|
|8. Coconut||9 g||7.2 g/ Cup|
|9. Beans||8.7 g||15 g/ Cup|
|10. Split Peas||8.3 g||16.3 g/ Cup|
|11. Lentils||7.9 g||15.6 g/ Cup|
|12. Avocados||6.7 g||10 g/ Cup|
|13. Raspberries||6.5 g||8 g/ Cup|
|14. Chickpeas||6.4 g||16.3 g/ Cup|
|15. Artichokes||5.7 g||8.7 g/ Large pc|
|16. White Beans||5.1 g||13.4 g/ Cup|
|17. Plums||3.1 g||7.69 g/ Cup|
|18. Carrots||2.8 g||3.6 g/ Cup|
|19. Brown Rice||1.7 g||2.64 g/ Cup|
|20. Potatoes||1.5 g||2 g/ Cup|
The majority of diets contain a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber, with insoluble fiber accounting for 75% of total fiber and soluble fiber accounting for 25%. The FDA reports that both soluble and insoluble fiber can help prolong feelings of fullness following a meal.
HOW TO INCORPORATE FIBERS IN DIET
Natural fiber-rich foods often include a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber, with soluble fiber being the majority, which beneficial bacteria may digest in the colon. Consume 5–10 g soluble fiber per day to reduce blood cholesterol by 3–5%.
HIGH FIBER DIET. Many people consume a high-fiber diet to reap the full advantages of fiber. When increasing fiber to your diet, the University of Michigan suggests starting cautiously by adding 5 g of fiber each day for two weeks. Fiber can induce bloating, cramping, and even diarrhea if ingested too quickly or in excess. Allow your body to adjust to increased dietary fiber consumption.
The following are some suggestions for increasing your fiber intake through food:
- Begin the day with a bowl of bran cereal or oats and berries.
- Blend fruit into a smoothie or use it to top cereal, pancakes, or desserts.
- Every meal should include fruit (particularly berries).
- Add beans or legumes to a salad or soup for lunch.
- Add high-fiber vegetables such as broccoli, maize, and turnip greens to meat sauces for dinner. Combine with whole-wheat spaghetti or brown rice for a complete meal.
LOW FIBER DIET. Occasionally, medical conditions compel people to follow a low-fiber diet for an extended period of time. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, patients undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery frequently need to relax their digestive tract. According to the National Institutes of Health, those on a low-fiber diet should avoid items high in fiber that make the digestive tract work harder, such as lentils, beans, whole grains, and a variety of raw or fried vegetables and fruits. Grains that have been refined, a variety of cooked vegetables, and ripe melons, peaches, plums, bananas, and apricots are still acceptable. However, you should abstain from spicy meals, fried foods, rough or processed meat, coffee, cocoa powder, and nuts.
However, it is essential to keep in mind to consume the fiber in moderation and don’t consume too much fiber. More than the recommended dosage of fiber (more than 40g daily) can lead to diarrhea, gas troubles, and decreased absorption of essential minerals like zinc and iron. Keeping these symptoms under control may be as simple as gradually increasing your fiber intake while also drinking lots of water. Fluid is necessary to aid in the passage of fiber through the digestive system.
The advice to consume a “higher-fiber diet” is not just to encourage people to meet their daily fiber intake, but also to promote general eating improvements. Read our article here to choose the right food to eat.
DIETARY FIBER SUPPLEMENTS, DO THEY WORK?
Fiber supplements are available in various forms and can benefit people who wish to boost their fiber intake if they are not eating or obtaining enough fiber through food. Individuals who struggle to get enough fiber in their diets frequently resort to supplements. They are available in a variety of forms, including capsules, powders, and chewable gummy pills. They contain what is known as “functional fiber,” which can be derived from natural sources or biosynthesized.
High-fiber foods are rich in vitamins and photochemical, so it is best to get your whole foods rather than supplements. There are some dietary fiber supplements that can help people with some medical-related problems. It’s not a bad idea to incorporate fortified foods or supplements into your diet—especially if you have a condition such as heart disease, pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or a gastrointestinal concern such as constipation. If you intend to use them, consult your physician first to determine which type is best for you.
Psyllium, commonly known as ispaghula, is derived from the husks of the seeds of the Plantago ovata herb. Psyllium has 70% soluble fiber, which means it can assist in increasing the sense of fullness and delaying digestion. Additionally, it includes 30% insoluble fiber, which allows it to pass through the colon reasonably intact, giving bulk and aiding in the regulation of bowel motions.
Another popular soluble fiber is methylcellulose, a semi-synthetic derivative of cellulose, a structural component of all plants. This allergen-free, non-fermentable fiber is derived from plant cell walls. It’s a soluble fiber that draws water into the stool to make it softer and helps maintain regular bowel motions. It is normally suggested, to begin with, a modest dose and gradually increase until you attain the recommended daily fiber intake, which should always include fiber from dietary sources. As it may interfere with the absorption of food and nutrients, it should not be used in conjunction with some prescription drugs.
This soluble fiber draws water into the digestive system, resulting in a more bulky, softer stool. Polycarbophil is used to treat constipation and bowel irregularity, but not for those who have trouble swallowing. It should not be taken with medicine.
Wheat dextrin is a byproduct of the wheat milling process. It’s odorless and dissolves in hot or cold fluids. Like other soluble fibers, it aids digestion and blood sugar regulation.
It’s true that supplements aren’t the best option, but they can be useful for those who are trying to regulate their bowel movements or who are suffering from constipation. Taking fiber supplements can reduce the absorption of several drugs, such as aspirin and carbamazepine. So it is always recommended to consult with your doctor before starting any supplements. Thus, while fiber supplements may be beneficial in restricted circumstances, they should never be used in place of true food-based dietary fiber. Read this article to find out if supplements are good for you.