Fiber is a component of our food that seems unimportant at first but has a lot of benefits. A lot of people that know of dietary fiber, just see it as a way of bulking up the food we eat, but it has numerous other functions, some of which would be discussed in this text.
Dietary fiber is a subclass of the carbohydrate family. It includes a wide range of food types that are eaten but not digested. This basically means that when they pass through our gastrointestinal tract, they undergo very little to no changes.
Dietary fiber is classified into two different types based on its solubility in aqueous solutions like water. They are:
- Soluble fiber: As you can guess from the name, this type of fiber dissolves in water. And that’s not all, they can also be metabolized by some of the bacteria that are found in our digestive tract. This type of fiber is also called fermentable fiber because of the bacterial action on it.
- Insoluble fiber: In contrast to the other type, this type of fiber does not dissolve in water. Because of this reason, it cannot be metabolized by the bacteria hence it is also known as non-fermentable fiber.
Because of the numerous health benefits of fiber and the problems associated with inadequate intake, there has been a stipulated amount that is required in the diet of every individual.
The USDA recommends an average of:
- 25 grams of fiber per day for females
- 38 grams of fiber per day for males
Adequate water intake of not less than 8 cups per day is also advised as it helps with the movement of fiber through the gastrointestinal tract.
Luckily for us, there are many foods that are rich in fiber and even more ways of combining them. So no matter how picky an eater you are, whether vegan or not, or if you have tons of allergies, there is simply no excuse to have a low fiber diet.
Some of the common foods that are rich in fiber include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole grain food like pasta, bread, and rice
- Whole wheat flour and flour meals
Examples of fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber include:
- Brussel sprouts
Snacks that are rich in fiber include:
- Dark chocolate
- Whole-grain crackers
- Granola bars
- Muffins baked with whole grain wheat
Optimal combinations to yield a high fiber diet include:
- Taking a high fiber fruit and/or vegetable with each meal
- Opting for whole wheat products.
- Cutting down on meats and using alternative sources of protein like beans, soybeans, and lentils
- Replacing low fiber snacks with some that have higher fiber content and are ultimately healthier for you.
Benefits of eating high fiber diet
According to Nutritional Cleanse, a high-fiber diet has many benefits. Here are some of them:
Generally keeps us healthy
A high-fiber diet keeps us healthy by helping us to fight against diseases. It boosts our immune systems and has a host of other pro-immunological functions.
Fiber also has some probiotic functions, this means it supports the growth of good bacteria which help to boost our immune system too and maintain a stable and healthy internal environment for optimum functioning of our body cells and tissues. The abundance of good bacteria also helps us fight against harmful bacteria and other microorganisms like fungi, protozoa, and viruses.
Also, fiber has some anti-inflammatory properties. It helps defend our bodies against c-reactive proteins which are products of inflammation and helps to reduce the inflammatory damages that could happen as a result of inflammation.
High fiber diets also reduce our risk of getting certain cancers as they prevent infections and diseases via the mechanism mentioned above while promoting the growth of healthy body cells that fight against the growth of cancerous and malignant cells.
Maintaining a healthy weight and healthy vitals
A high-fiber diet is always recommended for those that want to lose weight for any reason at all. The reason for this is that foods that are rich in fiber are bulkier and make us feel full even after eating less than the amount that would normally fill us up.
Plus high-fiber diets do not stay in the body for long as they promote the action of the gastrointestinal tract to excrete them. This is ideal in helping us lose weight or just generally maintaining healthy body weight.
Foods rich in fiber also help control our blood sugar levels, helping to fight diseases like diabetes and some cardiovascular diseases. Increased intake of fiber leaves us feeling full and this reduces our desire to consume other foods like processed sugar which are not too healthy for us.
Fibre also helps to reduce our cholesterol levels and prevent diseases like hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases. Reduction of cholesterol levels also helps us to maintain a healthy body weight and healthy blood vessels to prevent complications like stroke and heart failure.
Essential for normal bowel movements
Foods rich in fiber are essential to maintain a normal functioning gastrointestinal tract. This helps us prevent conditions like constipation which can lead to complications like hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and others.
Fiber helps us maintain normal bowel movements by giving bulk to the food we consume. It also helps us retain water which aids the movement of the consumed food down our gut. The increased bulk of waste products prevents them from staying in the GI tract any longer than they have to and allowing the gut walls to absorb water from them which causes constipation. Hence high fiber diets increase the frequency of voiding and also increase the bulk of the waste products.
Fiber because of its probiotic properties also promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria and helps them to thrive. The presence of healthy guy bacteria protects the gut from other harmful bacteria that can be gotten from the food we consume. The healthy gut bacteria also help us to fight against other infections and creates a stable environment for optimal functioning.
Surprisingly has detoxifying properties:
Fiber is surprisingly a detoxifying agent. Because of the bulk, it adds to food and its quickening of movement of ingested food through the gastrointestinal tract, it doesn’t allow time for the harmful parts of the things we consume like harmful bacteria or fungi to act on us. Instead, it just allows time for our bodies to absorb the useful nutrients before passing out the rest of the food before they have a chance to cause harm.
The fact that fiber also promotes bowel movements further pushes the waste out of our bodies completely before any real damage is done.
There is simply no end to the benefits of a high-fiber diet.
A few of them are listed above and there are many more health benefits. And not just that, high-fiber foods are generally tastier and more filling.
As with every other thing, there is also such a thing as having too much fiber so it is best to take everything in moderation. It is advised to stick to the daily recommended fiber intake for a healthier and generally happier life.