Dietary fibers are commonly called Roughage. They fall in the category of carbohydrates and are the leftovers from plant driven food like cereals, pulses, fruits, nuts vegetables, etc. Although other carbohydrates are broken down into sugar inside the body the Alimentary enzymes in the human body are not able to break down dietary fibers in general and make these substances resistant to get absorbed by the body.
There are two types of dietary fibers- soluble dietary fiber and insoluble dietary fiber.
Water-soluble fibers include pectin, mucilage, and gums which can be found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and leguminous seed plants. Whereas water-insoluble fibers include cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin which can be found in woody plants, cereals, and grains. Just to remember that generally most of the fiber-rich food contains soluble and insoluble fibers both.
Some properties of dietary fibers are :
It helps to increase the stool capacity during excretion by decreasing the particle size of components
Fibers also increase the water holding capacity of excretory products providing them with greater water content.
Fibers also play a significant role in the process of fermentation
Food sources which are rich in dietary fiber
• 1 cup of passion fruit has 25 g of fiber
• 1 cup of breadfruit has 11 g of fiber
• 1 medium pear has 6g of fiber
• 5 pieces of prunes have 3g of fiber
• 1 large artichoke has 9g of fiber
• 1 cup lima beans has 9g of fiber
• 1 cup green peas have 8g of fiber
• Half cup lentils has 8g of fiber
• Half cup kidney beans has 6g of fiber
• Half cup mashed sweet potato has 4g, of fiber
Nuts and Seeds
• 1 oz of chia seed has 10g of fiber
• 1 oz of flaxseed has 6g of fiber
• 1 oz of pumpkin seed has 5g of fiber
• 1 cup raisin bran has 7g of fiber,
• 2 biscuits of shredded wheat have 6g of fiber
• 1 cup oat bran has 6g of fiber
• 1 cup brown rice has 4g of fiber
Why should you eat a fiber-rich diet? Glimpses of all the health benefits of dietary fiber
It helps in maintaining a sudden increase or decrease in blood pressure. This helps to reduce the risk of diabetes and other metabolic syndromes and disorders.
Helps in reducing the risk of various heart diseases and disorders like strokes by lowering the total cholesterol in the body.
During digestion, it turns to gel by attracting water to it, which in turn traps the carbohydrates and lower the absorption of glucose, which decreases the difference in the levels of blood sugar.
Increases the pace and speed by which the food is processed in each stage of the digestive system which increases regularity.
Fibers help to add bulk in the stool which alleviates constipation.
Also adds volume to the diet which reduces appetite and helps feel fuller.
Reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by balancing intestinal pH.
Gastric Emptying-as the fibers adds bulk to the diet and energetic dilution capacities, it slows down the gastric filling. Soluble fibers increase the viscosity of gastric content and delay the emptying of gastric liquids.
Lowers postprandial glycemia - as the water holding capacity of the fibers is high it forms a gel. This gel gets traps the carbohydrates and lower the synthesis and absorption of glucose and hence after a meal blood sugar levels do not increase rapidly and are maintained.
Fibers also help in controlling the weight by preventing weight gain or promoting weight loss as it adds volume to the meal and creates a feeling of fullness after the food intake
Increased intake of dietary fiber reduces the risk of diverticulosis which is a condition in which small pouches are formed in the colon.
It is also found that women having greater fiber intakes have a risk of acquiring breast cancer 40% less than women who have lesser fiber intake.
How much fiber do we need?
Recommendation intakes of fibers are shown below
Eating too much fiber?
Too much fiber can have some health risks too. It can cause bloating diarrhea and constipation. Consuming a lot of fiber without proper intake of fluid not getting involved in physical activity can cause these symptoms. A healthy lifestyle will complement the intake of dietary fibers.
Intake of more than 50g of fiber in a single day can cause a mineral binding situation which means your body will start excreting the minerals instead of absorbing them.
How to increase fiber in diet?
Eat the fruits and vegetables without peeling off its skin, the skin has a lot of fiber
Eat whole-grain versions of a meal for example whole-wheat bread instead of white bread and pasta.
Add legumes to your meals like lentils and beans to your salads and soups as they are a rich source of fiber
If still, you are unable to fulfill the daily requirement you can go for supplements too
Dietary fibers are an essential component of a balanced and healthy diet. And helps to overcome the risk of many health conditions. But adding too much fiber can quickly promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating, and cramps. You should always increase fibers in your diet gradually over a few weeks rather than starting from a high fiber diet. As now we know that fibers work best when they absorb water so drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.