Why is Fiber Good for Me?
Healthy Living

Why is Fiber Good for Me?

Mehvish Hamdare profile Authored by Mehvish Hamdare on 20 Aug 2014 - 09:55.

Eat more fiber. You've probably heard it before. But do you know why fiber is so good for your health?

Dietary fiber is the remnant of the edible part of plants and analogous carbohydrates that are resistant to digestion and absorption in the human small intestine with complete or partial fermentation in the human large intestine.

Fiber is an important part of your diet. Once you understand its key role in preventing a variety of illnesses as well as being an aid to weight loss, you’ll want to make the switch to a high-fiber diet. A diet high in fiber can help keep your digestion regular, lower your cholesterol level, decrease risk of heart disease, control your blood sugar level and prevent weight gain and certain types of cancer as well.

Types of Fiber:

Fiber is commonly classified as soluble (it dissolves in water) or insoluble (it doesn't dissolve):

  • Soluble fiber: dissolves in water to form a gel-like material which can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels.
    • Sources: Oats, peas, barley, beans, flaxseeds, carrots, psyllium and fruits such as bananas and apples.
  • Insoluble fiber:  The major role of insoluble fiber is to add bulk to faeces and to prevent constipation and associated problems such as hemorrhoids.
    • Sources: Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, skins of fruits and vegetables.

Benefits of fiber in diet:

Healthy for heart: Soluble fiber reduces blood cholesterol levels. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology Foundation that followed 39,876 women for six years found that those who ingested an average of 26.3 grams of fiber daily were at lower risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack than those who ate less.

Maintainblood glucose: For people with diabetes, eating a diet high in fiber slows glucose absorption from the small intestine into the blood. This reduces the possibility of a surge of insulin, the hormone produced by the pancreas to stabilize blood glucose levels. This can help people with diabetes, improve control their blood glucose levels.

Control weight: High-fiber foods tend to be low energy density, which means they provide more volume for the number of calories. Fiber expands in the stomach and intestines, which creates a feeling of fullness and satiety. This means that after eating a fiber-rich meal, you'll typically feel fuller longer and may eat less throughout the day.

Regulate bowel movement: A high-fiber diet helps you have soft, regular bowel movements, reducing constipation. By improving bowel function, dietary fiber can reduce the risk of diseases and disorders such as diverticular disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or hemorrhoids.

Reduce Cancer Risk: Few studies claim that increased fiber intake decreases the risk of colorectal cancer. This protective effect may be because the more fiber you consume, the less time harmful toxins spend inside your body. Fiber may also have a protective effect against mouth, throat, and esophageal cancers.

How much fiber do you need?

Based on energy intake, a level of about 40g of fiber/2000 Kcal in a diet is considered reasonably safe by Indian council of Medical Research. Intakes in excess of 60 g of fiber over a day can reduce the absorption of nutrients and may cause irritation in the bowel apart from diarrhea.

Tips for increasing fiber in your diet:

  • Choose products that are minimally processed, like whole-wheat bread instead of white bread, brown rice instead of white rice and whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta.
  • Skip fruit juices as they contain much less fiber compared to whole fruits.
  • Top your breakfast cereals with dried fruits like raisins or dates, or fresh fruits like strawberries or peaches.
  • Change to a breakfast cereal that is high in fiber by adding some extra bran, dried fruit or nuts.
  • Read food labels to help you select those products that are higher in fiber.
  • Keep the skin on fruits and vegetables, rather than peeling them. Remember to wash them well first.
  • Snack on food high in fiber like fresh fruits, raw vegetables, low-fat popcorn and whole-grain crackers are all good choices.
  • Eat more beans by incorporating it to your soups and salads.
  • Grind some flaxseed and add it to mukhwaas (mouthfreshner), salad,muffins, breads, soups and smoothies.

References:

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.