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Fiber - Nature's Rough Gem

 

There is more to fiber than preventing constipation. Here's a quick guide to the rough gem in your diet ?

 

What is Fiber ?

Dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, includes all parts of plant foods that your body cannot digest or absorb. In that case, does fiber provide any benefits ? The answer is a resounding "Yes"! For starters, your meal would have less crunch and be less filling without fiber.

 

Interestingly, dietary fiber is found only in plant foods : Fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Meat, milk and eggs do not contain fiber.

 

Not all Fiber is the same

One way to categorize fiber is by how easily it dissolves in water. Soluble fiber partially dissolves in water. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water.

 

Bulking up on Fiber

Both insoluble and soluble fibers add bulk to the stool. A larger, bulkier stool passes through the colon more easily and requires less pressure ( and straining ) to be expelled during defecation. This puts less stress on the colon wall and thereby avoids the ballooning effect that causes diverticulosis a condition characterized by pouches of the intestinal wall that can become inflamed and painful. Sufficient fiber intake also prevents the formation of hemorrhoids (swollen and inflamed veins around the anus or lower rectum ) and varicose veins (permanently enlarged, twisted and painful veins, most often in the legs).

 

Insoluble fiber soaks up water, adding bulk to the stool and keeping it moist and easy to eliminate. This makes it easier for the intestines to move matter out of your system more quickly and, thereby, prevents constipation.

 

Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It is like a sponge, absorbing fluid as it moves through the lower gastro-intestinal tract, which results in softer, bigger stools, and often less training the toilet.

 

Other benefits of Fiber

Fiber is not just important for less training while on your "porcelain throne". Its other benefits are as follows :

Some soluble fibers interfere with fat and cholesterol absorption, lowering blood cholesterol and protecting the heart.

Some soluble fibers help lower blood sugar levels and may aid insulin sensitivity.

Fiber protects the lining of the colon and seems to prevent development of cancerous cells.

High-fiber-diets may be useful for people who wish to lose weight. Fiber itself has no calories, yet produces a "full" feeling because of its water-absorbing ability. For example, an apple is more filling than half a cup of apple juice that contains the same amount of calories.

Foods high in fiber often require more chewing, so a person is unable to eat a large amount of calories in a short amount of time.

 

Sources of Fiber

Different types of plants have varying amounts and kinds of fiber. How the plants are processed is also important. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables contain just as much fiber as fresh ones.

 

While the following foods have both soluble and insoluble fibers, some have a higher content of one type of fiber :

 

Soluble Fiber Insoluble Fiber

- oatmeal

- oat bran

- nuts and seeds

- legumes

  dried peas

  beans

  lentils

- apples

- pears

- strawberries

- blueberries

- wholegrains

  wholewheat breads

  barley

  couscous

  brown rice

  bulgur

- wholegrain breakfast cereals

- wheat brain

- seeds

-carrots

- cucumbers

- zucchini

- celery

- tomatoes

 

How much Fiber ?

Based on nutrition studies, it may be best to eat at least 30 grams of fiber daily. Reaching this goal requires a balanced, plant-based diet.

 

Choose at least five vegetable and fruit servings, and at least three small servings of wholegrains such as oatmeal, brown rice or wholewheat bread. Enjoy a small handful of nuts and seeds a few times weekly.

 

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for Fiber

Fiber (g/day)

Age (years) Males Females
1-3 19 19
4-8 25 25
9-13 31 26
14-18 38 26
19-50 38 25
51+ 30 21
Women Pregnant Lactating
≤18 years 28 29
18 + years 28 29

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