What is Fiber?
Dietary Fiber refers to the edible parts of carbs or proteins which can’t be digested. The non-digestible carb is required by the body in order for it to effectively function. Generally, fiber is classified under two categories; Dietary fiber which is naturally found in foods while Functional fiber is isolated and extracted from whole foods and then incorporated in processed foods.
According to the American Heart Association, the average total amount of fiber that an adult should take is between 25-30g. This dietary fiber should be derived from food sources and not meal replacement supplements. Men under the age of 50 should take 30-38g of fiber per day while women in the same age group should take 21-25g of fiber daily. Overall, children from 1-18 years should take between 14-31g of fiber.
Different Types of Dietary Fiber
There are various types of fiber depending on different factors. The main types of fiber are normally divided according to their solubility in water. A fiber is either soluble in water or it’s insoluble. Both soluble and insoluble fiber have vital benefits to the body. However, the way they function when they are absorbed into the body is different.
Soluble vs Insoluble Dietary Fiber
A fiber’s solubility depends on its ability to be able to dissolve in water. Based on solubility, a fiber can be soluble or insoluble. A soluble fiber perfectly blends with water that’s found in the gut to form a gel. The best thing about this type of fiber is that it has numerous metabolic benefits and it helps to reduce spikes in blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, doesn’t blend with water. It remains unchanged as it passes along the digestive system. Insoluble fiber is normally used as a bulking agent.
This is a bacteria-friendly fiber that is normally used as fuel. Fermentable fiber helps to increase the level as well as the balance of gut bacteria. They are soluble and include guar gum, beta-glucans, oligofructose, inulin, and pectin. The best sources of fermentable fibers are whole foods such as legumes.
This is a soluble fiber that exists in a thick gel when mixed with water. When consumed, the fiber will remain along the gut, slowing the process of digestion. Besides that, this fiber also inhibits the absorption of nutrients in the body. The effect of this is that the consumer will end up experiencing a prolonged feeling of satiety and reduced food cravings. Example of viscous fiber includes guar gum, psyllium, beta-glucans, and Glucomannan. The best sources of plant-based viscous fiber are Brussels sprouts, flax seeds, oats, asparagus, and legumes.
Starch is the main type of carb in most diets. Resistant starch is usually indigestible and that is why it is considered as fiber. They normally pass along the digestive tract and remain unchanged. Resistant starch can be obtained from raw oats, chews, green bananas as well as some legumes.
Benefits of Dietary Fiber
Dietary fiber has been tested and approved as safe and healthy. The plant-based fibers contain different compounds which help to enhance the functions of different parts of the body. Fiber is known as an appetite suppressor that help to curb appetite. It also helps to aid the weight loss process by creating calorie deficiency. Some of the benefits of fiber include:
1. Reducing the Risk of Cancer
Clinical research studies show that fiber might help to reduce the risk of certain types of cancers including colorectal cancer. It has been established that fiber-rich foods can help to lower the risk of colon cancer. It keeps the walls of the colon healthy.
Another benefit of taking fiber is that it helps to reduce the effects of constipation. It absorbs water from the body and increases the bulk of the stool. In addition to those, fiber also helps to speed bowel movements throughout the intestines. However, a study conducted on individuals suffering from constipation showed some contradictions. The results showed that a low-fiber diet is even better than a high-fiber diet.
3. Reducing the Blood Cholesterol
Soluble and Viscous fiber can are used to reduce cholesterol levels. An increased intake of these two fibers usually shows amplified results. This helps to lower the risk of diseases such as the heart disease which is normally associated with high amounts of cholesterol in the body.
4. Improving the Gut Health
The gut bacteria is essential for digestion. Over 500 species of different bacteria are found in the intestines and they are sometimes termed as the gut bacteria or the gut flora. Carbs, fats, and proteins which are normally absorbed into the bloodstream before reaching the large intestines where there’s gut bacteria. However, fiber is indigestible, this means that it usually reaches the large intestines when it’s unchanged. The large intestines have enzymes which can digest fiber, providing food for the “good” bacteria. They basically function as prebiotics.
5. Regulating Sugar Spikes
High-carb foods can lead to sugar spikes especially after meals. However, high-fiber foods have a lower-glycemic index compared to refined carbs which don’t have fiber. They help to control the sugar levels in the body by preventing spikes which can rise to harmful levels. Note that if you have a health condition that is related to sugar, for instance, diabetes it’s important to reduce your daily carb intake. Avoid taking refined low-fiber carbs.
6. Weight Loss
Meal replacement shakes are rich in fiber because of their weight loss property. Fiber helps to suppress hunger. By doing so, it creates a feeling of illness and reduced appetite. This leads to a general reduction in the calorie intake. Fiber soaks up water slowing nutrient absorption in the intestines.
Sources of Dietary Fiber
Fiber has numerous benefits and the best thing about them is that they are available in a wide range of foods. The best sources of fiber are usually fruits and vegetables. These are plant-based fiber sources that are safe and healthy for human consumption. Fruits and vegetables have high-quality fiber and they help to curb hunger for a long period of time.
It contains high levels of monounsaturated fats. Avocado is a fiber-rich fruit that helps to promote the health of the heart. A medium-sized avocado contains about 9g of fiber. This fruit is the perfect source of fiber for bodybuilders and individuals who are have restricted carbs on their diet.
Flaxseed is packed with fiber. The versatile seed is full of omega-3 fatty acids which help to improve the composition of the body. Flaxseed also contains lignans antioxidant which are an anti-estrogenic.
Cabbage is a vegetable that is not only rich in indole-3 carbinal but also fiber. This fiber-rich vegetable contains antioxidants that help to enhance the level of immunity by fighting the damaging radicals from the body. You can consume cabbage in variations such as a broccoli- slaw mix or a coleslaw.
These are nutrient-packed seeds that are full of fiber and omega-3 fats. A single tablespoon of chia seeds is packed with around 6g of fiber. Chia seeds can be consumed with drinks such as yogurt or smoothies. Simply sprinkle the seeds on top of your favorite drink and you are guaranteed long hours of satiety.
These vegetables have the same originality with cabbage and broccoli. It contains numerous health benefits such as supplying the body with the essential nutrients. Besides that, Brussels sprouts also contain high amounts of fiber. Ten sprouts of Brussels, for instance, contain about 7g of fiber.
This is a fiber-rich perennial vegetable that contains 5g of fiber per cup. The cruciferous superfood also contains the calcium D-gluconate compound that helps to clear and remove excess amounts of estrogen from the body. Broccoli can be consumed as roasted, steamed, raw or sautéed.
Berries are some of the fruits that have high amounts of fiber. They also have a sweet taste which can be used to quench the cravings of sugary foods. Consuming raspberries also provide the body with the daily recommended amount of vitamin C.
A quarter cup of uncooked lentils contains about 15g of fiber. The same amount of lentils contain 12g of protein which makes it one of the healthiest foods. Lentils are beneficial beans which are easy to cook and they take less than ten minutes to be prepared.
A medium-sized apple contains about 5g of fiber. The main type of fiber that is found in the apple is called pectin, a soluble type of fiber that helps to slow down the process of digestion. Apple helps to increase the immunity of the body by supplying it with nutrients which are required for growth and development.
The best way of increasing your daily fiber intake is by gradually adding different types of fiber to your diet. Eat whole fruits such as apples and pears instead of drinking smoothies or fruit juices. Your diet should consist of whole grain foods and snack on vegetables instead of junk fast foods
Soluble fibers that are fermentable and viscous are the healthiest. The different types of fiber help to enhance different functions of the body and promote the overall health of the consumer. By promoting the feeling of fullness, fiber helps to lower the level of blood cholesterol and regulate the blood sugar levels. They are found in a wide range of foods. As long as a person is eating a well-balanced meal that contains various whole plant foods, their fiber intake will automatically take care of itself.