Dietary fiber, also known as bulk or roughage, not only aids in weight control and keeps you full but also improves the body’s overall health. Studies show that adequate consumption of fiber plays a key role in digestion and lowers the risk of chronic illnesses.
What is fiber?
Fiber, simply put, is a type of indigestible carbohydrate. While most carbohydrates are easily broken down into sugar molecules, the same cannot happen with fiber, which is also classed as a carbohydrate.
Instead, dietary fiber passes through the digestive system without being digested, thereby keeping the digestive system healthy and clean. It is also excellent at flushing harmful carcinogens and cholesterol out of your system, as well as easing your bowel movement. Based on its water solubility, it can be divided into two types, including:
1. Soluble fiber: This is the fiber that can dissolve in water, an excellent high cholesterol treatment, and ideal in controlling blood sugar levels. Some of its sources include oatmeal, nuts, fruits, and barley.
2. Insoluble fiber: Fails to dissolve in water and is good at preventing constipation. It can be found in wheat cereals, vegetables, and whole grains.
Understand that fiber comes in different forms, some of which can be used by the friendly gut while others can’t. Also, some of the plant fibers bring you health benefits while others do not.
What are some of the benefits of fiber?
Consuming foods high in fiber can do so much more than just keep you regular. It has been found to boost the immune system and health, as well as give your appearance and feelings a boost. Here are some of fiber’s notable benefits:
1. Healthy Heart
Soluble fiber, in particular, is a critical element to a healthy heart. It helps to reduce the levels of LDL (so-called ‘bad’) cholesterol. An intake of fiber in high amounts also reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome, usually linked to diabetes, stroke, and coronary heart disease. In addition, dietary fiber is good at boosting HDL (good cholesterol), aiding weight loss, reducing inflammation, and lowering blood pressure.
2. Digestive Health
Fiber supports bowel movements by making it easy for stool to pass. It thereby prevents the onset of diarrhea and constipation. Dietary fiber consumption also lowers the risk of the inflammation of the intestines (diverticulitis), kidney stones, and gallstones.
How can you add fiber to your diet?
The amount of dietary fiber to add to your diet depends on your age. Men aged 50 years or younger are advised to consume at least 38 grams daily, while women of the same age bracket should eat 25 grams. Adult men aged 51 years and over should consume 30 grams, while women of the same age bracket should consume 21 grams. Here are simple ways to add fiber to your diet.
Include veggies in your meals
Veggies should be included in every meal for many reasons. One is that they lower the risk of chronic illnesses. Try to incorporate more beets, broccoli, artichoke, brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and tomatoes into your diet.
Choose fiber-rich snacks
Some of the high fiber snacks to choose include:
• Whole grain bread
• Beans and legumes
• Oat bran
Use wheat germ or oat bran as a topping to your salads, yogurt, and soup, among others.
Avoid drinking fruit/veggie juice – eat them whole
Your digestive system is created to handle fiber, which is absent in juiced fruits and veggies. Juicing eliminates the healthy fiber, meaning that you miss out on the effects it should give, including the feeling of fullness and reduced risk of heart disease.
Eat more berries and consume chia seeds
A fiber-filled diet will include lots of berries and chia seeds. Chia seeds and berries contain soluble fiber ideal for lowering cholesterol.
If this diet is new to you, start by introducing gradual fiber additions and gradually build up your intake to prevent gas and bloating. And always remember to take lots of fluids.