The complex carbohydrates that are not digested by the human enzymes are collectively referred to as dietary fiber. These include cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin, lignin, gums and mucilage. It may, however, be noted that some of the fibers are digestible by the enzymes of intestinal bacteria. Nutrionists attach a lot of importance to the role of fiber in human health. Dietary fiber is involved in several functions.
There are a number of health benefits for fiber. The most promising benefit that is receiving more and more attention is fiber’s role in immune health. We know that cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity have underlying inflammatory processes. Dietary fiber may play a role to modulate the immune system and therefore produce a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.
What are the beneficial effects of Fiber?
- Prevents constipation:- fiber helps to maintain the normal motility of gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation
- Eliminates bacterial toxins:– fiber absorbs large quantities of water and also the toxic compounds produced by intestinal bacteria that lead to increased fecal mass and its easier expulsion
- Decreases GIT cancers:– the lower incidence of cancers of gastrointestinal tract in vegetarians compared to non-vegeterians is attributed to dietary fiber
- Improves glucose tolerance:– fiber improves glucose tolerance by the body. This is mainly done by a diminished rate of glucose absorption from the intestine
- Reduces plasma cholesterol level:– fiber decreases the absorption of dietary cholesterol from the intestine. Further, fiber binds with the bile salts and reduces their enterohepatic circulation. This causes increased degradation of cholesterol to bile salts and its disposal from the body.
- Satiety value:– dietary fiber is significantly adds to the weight of the food stuff ingested and gives a sensation of stomach fullness
What are the Sources of dietary fiber?
- Fruits:– Berries are an excellent source of fiber. One cup of blackberries has 8 grams of fiber, or about one-third of a woman’s daily needs. A cup of blueberries or cranberries will provide 5 grams of fiber. A 1-cup serving of strawberries contains 4 grams of fiber. Choose berries as a snack, add them to salads or have them for dessert with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of chopped nuts.
A large orange, medium pear or medium apple each have 4 grams of fiber and make a convenient snack. A large kiwi or one-half of a large mango each offer 3 grams of fiber. Eat three small plums or five prunes for an extra 3 grams of fiber. One-half of a medium avocado has 4 grams of fiber and can be used as a sandwich spread or mixed with salsa for a simple dip.
- Bran:- One simple way to increase fiber intake is to power up on bran. Bran from many grains is very rich in dietary fiber. Oat bran is high in soluble fiber, which has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels. Wheat, corn, and rice bran are high in insoluble fiber, which helps prevent constipation. Bran can be sprinkled into your favorite foods, from hot cereal and pancakes to muffins and cookies. Many popular high-fiber cereals and bars are also packed with bran
- Beans:- Beans really are the magical fruit. They are one of the most naturally rich sources of fiber, as well as protein, lysine, vitamins, and minerals, in the plant kingdom. It’s no wonder so many indigenous diets include a bean or two in the mix. Some people experience intestinal gas and discomfort associated with bean intake, so they may be better off slowly introducing beans into their diet. Encourage a variety of beans as an animal protein replacement in stews, side dishes, salads, soups, casseroles, and dips.
- Leafy vegetables:- Deep green, leafy vegetables are notoriously rich in beta-carotene, vitamins, and minerals, but their fiber content isn’t too shabby either. There are more than 1,000 species of plants with edible leaves, many with similar nutritional attributes, including high-fiber content. While many leafy greens are fabulous tossed in salads, sauting them in olive oil, garlic, lemon, and herbs brings out a rich flavor. The leafy vegetables high in fiber are Turnip greens, Mustard greens, Collard greens, Spinach, Beet greens
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes:- potatoes come in red, white, gold and purple hues, but all are full of potassium, vitamin C, folacin and fiber. A single baked potato will also provide you with over 3 grams of fiber, but remember the fiber in potatoes is mostly in their skin. If you want the cholesterol-lowering, colon cancer preventing, and bowel supportive effects of fiber, be sure to eat the potato’s flavorful skin as well as its creamy center.
Soluble fiber, found inside plant cells, is one of the two main types of fiber. This type of fiber absorbs water and forms a gel as it moves through your digestive tract, slowing the passage of food and helping you feel full for longer. It may help lower your cholesterol and your blood glucose levels, as well as your risk for heart disease. One serving of sweet potato contains 1.8 grams of soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber, found in the cell walls of plants, is the other main type of fiber. Insoluble fiber bulks up your stool, helping it move through the digestive tract and limiting your risk for constipation, diverticulosis and hemorrhoids. One serving of sweet potato contains 2.2 grams of insoluble fiber.
- Nuts:- Almonds, pecans, and walnuts have more fiber than other nuts. Go nuts to pack a fiber punch. One ounce of nuts and seeds can provide a hearty contribution to the day’s fiber recommendation, along with a bonus of healthy fats, protein, and phytochemicals. Sprinkling a handful of nuts or seeds over breakfast cereals, yogurt, salads, and desserts is a tasty way to do fiber.