Dietary Fiber | 7 Health Benefits you Should know

A high Dietary Fiber plan offers endless health benefits and is great for your body and your digestion. The benefits of dietary fiber can include maintaining blood sugar, aiding in weight loss, and lowering cholesterol. And we all, therefore, know why it’s good for us!

Basically, dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by our bodies’ enzymes. It is found in edible plant foods such as cereals, fruits, vegetables, dried peas, nuts, lentils, and grains.

Not forgetting, fiber is grouped by its physical properties and is called soluble, insoluble or resistant starch. Whereby, all these three types of fiber have important roles to play.Dietary Fiber

A high fiber diet that contains both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber can include wholesome ingredients. Like whole-grain bread, fruits, and vegetables, beans, barley and more.

High-fiber foods provide a great way to curb hunger. Helping us to keep full, while promoting good digestion and providing energy that lasts throughout the day.

It’s important to realize, that the amount of soluble and insoluble fiber varies in different plant foods. And, therefore, to receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fiber foods.

What is Fiber?

Fiber is also known as roughage, and it’s the indigestible part of plant foods that travels through our digestive system. While absorbing water along the way and easing bowel movements.

According to Paige Smathers, a Utah-based dietitian, it’s very important when it comes to our food digestion and regularity. As well as, weight management, blood sugar regulation, cholesterol maintenance and more. It has also been linked to longevity and decreasing the risk of cancer.

Beware: Refined or processed foods (such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white bread, and pastas), and non-whole-grain cereals — are lower in fiber. Simply, because the grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fiber content.

Enriched foods have some of the B vitamins and iron added back after processing, but not the fiber.

What is Dietary Fiber?

Dietary Fiber, also known as Roughage or Bulk, includes the parts of plant foods your body can’t digest or absorb. Referring to nutrients in the diet that are not digested by gastrointestinal enzymes but still fulfill an important role.

As can be seen, it sometimes called roughage or bulk as it’s a plant-based nutrient. Yes, it is a type of carbohydrate but, unlike other carbs, it cannot be broken down into digestible sugar molecules. Therefore, fiber passes through the intestinal tract relatively intact. However, on its journey, fiber does a lot of work.

Dietary Fiber

To enumerate, the term “dietary fiber” refers to the indigestible parts of plant-based foods. And in other contexts, “fiber” might refer to the plant-based cloth. But when speaking of nutrition, the terms “fiber” and “dietary fiber” are often interchangeable.

And unlike other food components, such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates — which your body breaks down and absorbs — dietary fiber isn’t digested by your body. Instead, it passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, and colon and out of your body.

How are Fibers Classified?

Fiber is commonly classified as soluble, which dissolves in water, or insoluble, which doesn’t dissolve. Inside the body, soluble fiber dissolves and becomes a gel-like substance. Insoluble fiber mostly retains its shape while in the body.

To simply put, so that you can understand better, soluble fiber, such as pectin, gum, and mucilage, dissolves in water. But, insoluble fiber, such as hemicellulose, cellulose, and lignin, does not. Below are more clustered examples;

Soluble Fiber: 

This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.

Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, lentils, blueberries, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, and psyllium.

Insoluble Fiber:

This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk. So it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools.

Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, brown rice, nuts, beans and vegetables (such as cauliflower, cucumbers, green beans, potatoes), are all good sources of insoluble fiber.

Surprisingly, most plant-based foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, but the amounts of each vary in different foods. In addition, some foods, like nuts and carrots, are good sources of both types of fiber.

What are the Benefits of a High-fiber Diet?

To understand how it specifically benefits digestion, the soluble fiber becomes gelatinous when it’s combined with water. This helps slow and ease digestion, while also absorbing cholesterol. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and helps push food through your digestive system.

So if you’re looking for a simple way to keep your digestive tract running smoothly, fiber is key! Considering, both soluble and insoluble fibers have important benefits. For example, soluble fiber is known to help decrease blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. It also helps lower blood cholesterol.

Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, speeds up the passage of food through the digestive system. This helps maintain regularity and prevent constipation. It also increases fecal bulk, which makes stools easier to pass. A High-fiber diet contributes to:

1. Normalizes bowel movements

A good dietary plan full of fibrous foodstuffs increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it.

Bearing in mind, a bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. And if you have loose, watery stools, it may help to solidify the stool. Because it absorbs water and adds bulk to stool. Dietary fiber aids in improving digestion by increasing stool bulk and regularity.  This is probably fiber’s best-known benefit.

Bulkier, softer stools are easier to pass than hard or watery ones, which not only makes life more comfortable but, it also helps maintain colorectal health. According to the Mayo Clinic, a high-fiber diet may help reduce the risk of hemorrhoids and diverticulitis (small, painful pouches on the colon).

2. Helps maintain bowel health

Secondly, a highly fibrous diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (diverticular disease).

Furthermore, studies have also found that it likely lowers the risk of colorectal cancer, since some of it is fermented in the colon. Researchers are looking at how this may play a role in preventing diseases of the colon.

The digestive process requires bile acids, which are made partly with cholesterol. As your digestion improves, the liver pulls cholesterol from the blood to create more bile acid. Thereby, reducing the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol.

3. Lowers cholesterol levels

Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels. By lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Also, studies have shown that high fibrous foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.

A more recent animal study suggested that fiber might only cause this benefit if a person possesses the right kind and amount of gut bacteria. Fiber naturally reacts with bacteria in the lower colon and can sometimes ferment into a chemical called butyrate, which may cause cancer cells to self-destruct.

Some people naturally have more butyrate-producing bacteria than others, and a high-fiber diet can help encourage the bacteria’s growth.

4. Helps control blood sugar levels

A meta-analysis of studies regarding the relationship between fiber and blood glucose (blood sugar) levels published in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that increased fiber intake can reduce blood glucose levels. In particular, during the standard fasting blood glucose test (a test of blood sugar levels after an overnight fast).

And in people with diabetes — soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes insoluble it may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

5. Aids in achieving a healthy weight

High-fiber foods tend to be more filling than low-fiber foods, so you’re likely to eat less and stay satisfied longer.

And high-fiber foods tend to take longer to eat and to be less “energy-dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food. Certain types may also promote weight loss, lower blood sugar levels and fight constipation.

6. Helps you live longer

Studies suggest that increasing your dietary intake — especially cereal fiber — is associated with a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers. It leaves your stomach undigested and ends up in your colon, where it feeds friendly gut bacteria, leading to various health benefits.

One recent study suggests that cereal fiber, from foods like whole-grain bread, cereal, and pasta, is especially effective. Over a 14-year period, those who ate the most cereal fiber were 19 percent less likely to die than those who ate the least.

7. Helps fight food allergies and asthma

New research suggests that fiber could play a role in preventing food allergies, the existence of which has long puzzled scientists. Again, this theory comes down to the interaction between fiber and bacteria in the gut.

Scientists theorize that people are not producing the right gut bacteria to tackle foods commonly associated with allergies, like peanuts and shellfish. Without the right bacteria, particles of these foods can enter the bloodstream via the gut. Fiber helps produce a bacterium called Clostridia, which helps keep the gut secure.

The same reasoning explains why fiber might help people with asthma. Unwanted particles escaping the gut and entering the bloodstream can cause an autoimmune response like asthmatic inflammation. A 2013 animal study found that mice eating a high-fiber diet were less likely to experience asthmatic inflammation than mice on a low- or average-fiber diet.

How much Dietary Fiber do you need?

People struggling to get enough fiber in their diets often turns to other Dietary Supplements. While supplements are not as good as fiber from whole foods, fiber supplements can be of great help. Especially, for people looking to regulate their bowel movements or even those who suffer from constipation.

Additionally, they also have the same cholesterol-lowering and blood sugar stabilization effects — if you can get enough of them. A food supplement does not carry nearly as much fiber as a fiber-rich food like lentils or peas. So by merely sprinkling powder on your yogurt probably will not get you the fiber you need.

Furthermore, fiber-rich foods are wildly high in other vital nutrients, which you won’t get if you add supplements to nutritionally void foods. And according to the Mayo Clinic, some fiber supplements can interact with certain drugs, like aspirin, carbamazepine or even warfarin. They can also cause bloating and gas — just like the real thing.

The recommended Dietary Fiber for Adults

Generally, the recommended daily intake is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Unfortunately, most people are only eating around half of that, or 15–17 grams of fiber per day.

However, the Institute of Medicine has set a recommended daily amount (RDA) for fiber intake. Whereby, for men aged 50 years and younger should consume 38 grams of fiber per day. And for men who are 51 years and older should consume 30 grams.

On the other hand, women aged 50 years and younger should consume 25 grams per day. While their older counterparts should have 21 grams. But, most Kenyans do not consume enough fiber as required on a daily basis.

Fortunately, increasing your daily intake is relatively easy — simply integrate foods into your diet that have a high percentage (%) of it per weight.

Takeaway,

I know you’re adding a hefty dollop of chocolate protein powder to your breakfast smoothie. Or even switching up your usual pancake routine to involve the wonder ingredient that is buckwheat. By all means, we know these fiber-filled dishes will make you feel good from the inside out.

So, Do you have any favorite inspired meals you like to create at home? Please feel free to share with us in the comments section below this blog. Of course, we’d love to hear what sort of dishes you cook and bake to increase your daily fiber intake!

Finally, here are 22 High-Fiber Foods You Should Eat.

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