Fiber for me is the most important consideration when I choose the kind of food I want to eat. Fiber is essential for the smooth passage of digested food through the large bowel.
Although fiber is not a magic bullet that can prevent or cure everything from cancer to indigestion, studies suggest that the typically low-fiber diets consumed in most industrialized countries may contribute to such widespread illnesses such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, and diseases of the large intestine. A well-balanced diet will provide all the fiber you need, without supplying too much.
Types of Fiber: There are two types of Fiber those that don’t dissolve in water (insoluble fiber) and those that do (soluble fiber)
- Insoluble fiber is the type that does not dissolve in water – and this is the kind that “bulks up” in the intestine and acts like a broom, sweeping undigested matter out of your intestine. This type of fiber is found in the leaves of the plants, in the peels and skin of fruits and vegetables, and in the covering of whole grains. While it does not dissolve in water, it does bind to water, which helps to bulk up the stool and prevent diarrhea.
- Soluble fiber is the type that dissolves in water. As soluble fiber passes through the digestive tract, it binds together bile acids and cholesterol, so they pass through without being reabsorbed. Oat bran, perhaps is the best known form of soluble fiber, has been shown to reduce cholesterol. One particular form of soluble fiber known as pectin is found in the outer skin and rind of fruits and vegetables. The skin of apple contains 15% pectin.
Daily Requirement of Fiber: Minimum of 18g
- Men 50 years and younger: 38gms
- Men 51 and older: 30gms
- Women 50 years and younger: 25gms.
- Women 51 and older: 21gms
Individuals who needs extra fibers on their diet: Anyone with raised cholesterol, heart disease, chronic constipation, diabetes, and diet low in wholegrain cereals and root vegetables.
Food Rich in Fiber: Most dietary fiber comes from fruits especially apples, peaches, plum; vegetables, dried beans, peas and other legumes, cereals, grains, nuts, and seeds. The outer layer of a grain, which contains the most fiber, is removed in the refining process. This explains why whole-grain products, such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread, are such good sources of fiber.
Benefits of Fibers:
- Fiber is important in the detoxification process because it cleans the intestines by means of its natural scrubbing action.
- Fiber helps control blood-sugar levels by slowing the rate at which the intestines release blood-sugar into the bloodstream.
- Fiber feed the friendly bacteria that live in the intestinal tract, helping to speed digestion and prevent unfriendly microbes from causing infection.
- Fiber helps aid weight loss. It decreases appetite and gives a feeling of satiety without increasing body fat or weight.
- Fiber promotes hormone balance.
- Fiber helps increase your intake of phytonutrients (many of which are found in the fiber portion of plants).
- Pectin, like other forms of soluble fiber, lowers cholesterol levels by preventing the reabsorption of cholesterol in the gut.
- Fiber helps increase the metabolic level of the body.
- Fiber relieves the symptoms of hemorrhoids because stools are easier to pass, less straining is necessary.
Ways to increase fiber intake:
- Eat the skins of potatoes, apples and other fruits, and vegetables. If you're worried about dirt and pesticides, rinse them in warm water with rock salt before eating.
- Use whole-grain cereals and breads and brown rice; avoid products made from white or highly processed flour.
- If you can’t tolerate a particular high-fiber food, substitute something else; for example, replace beans with another vegetable.
- When starting a high-fiber diet, increase it gradually over a period of a few weeks. This will allow the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change. Because by adding too much fiber too quickly this can cause intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping.
- When eating a high fiber diet drink plenty of water. Fiber works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky. Without the added water, you could become constipated.
Side Effects of Too Much Fiber Intake:
- Too much bran and other insoluble fibers can prevent the digestive system from absorbing certain minerals properly, particularly calcium, iron, and zinc (it can therefore cause deficiencies of these minerals). This is rarely a problem and is unlikely to occur unless more than 35g of fiber a day are consumed.
- Too much fiber can cause bloating and other digestive problems.
- Some high-fiber foods can cause gas.
Note on Fiber Supplements:
- If you are taking fiber supplement it is important to drink lots of water otherwise the supplement can “bulk up” inside your intestinal tract rather than passing readily through it, causing constipation.
- Fiber pills are not a good alternative to consuming fiber from real foods because pills and other types of supplements lack the other nutrients and substances found in high-fiber foods.