Whenever we eat an apple, we all know what are the effects it does on our body. We feel that our bowel movements are smooth and easy. Likewise, when we eat some particular fruits, vegetables, or whole grains we experience the same smooth movement on our bowel in addition to the feeling of fullness and less appetite. Many of us who want to stay fit, smart, and healthy tend to incorporate foods with the same effect in order to shed some calories. There is one common component in all of them which is responsible for the effect and this is fiber!
What is Fiber?
Fiber is a kind of carbohydrate that is not digested by our body. Carbohydrates present in other foods are broken down into sugar molecules but the Fiber is a carbohydrate that cannot be broken down and it passes out of the human body undigested while keeping our digestive system smooth and clean.
Fiber comes mainly from plant-based foods e.g. grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts. Also, popularly known as “Roughage” fiber needs to be incorporated in the diet more.
Types of Fibers
Mainly there are two types of fibers:
- Soluble Fibers: these are the fibers that are dissolvable in water. Soluble fibers are present in oatmeal’s, beans, lentils, apples, nuts, or blueberries. These fibers help in lowering glucose levels and blood cholesterol.
- Insoluble Fibers: These fibers do not dissolve in water and help to move the food through the digestive system smoothly and regularly. These type of fibers prevents constipation. They make our digestive system activities more regular than ever. The foods which contain insoluble fibers are wheat, whole wheat bread, brown rice, legumes, carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, etc.
Both soluble and insoluble fibers are essential for the proper regulation of our body’s digestive tract. On whole, we can say that humans should consume fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, and nuts so that they can have both types of fibers in their diet.
Recommended dietary allowances for fiber intake
The proper intake of Fiber daily helps us in many ways like losing weight and also balancing gut bacteria. So it is very important to keep our fiber consumption balanced. It is recommended that you should never consume all the recommended fiber at once but in chunks. The ideal way to do is to divide the consumption throughout the day.
The recommended daily allowances of fiber intake are:
- Children 1 to 18 years: 14-31 gm/day
- Men: 30-38 gm/day
- Women between 18-50 years: 25 gm/day
- Women above 51 years:21 gm/d
The fluid intake should be in balance with fiber intake. The more the fiber intake, the more should be the fluids intake. The balanced amount of fluids helps to digest the fiber in our stomach.
Where does Fiber come from?
Foods that are best recommended for high fiber diets are:
- Whole grain products
- Nuts and seeds
- Vegetables and fruits
- Beans, peas, and other legumes.
Processed foods that are canned foods, white bread, pasta, and non-whole grain cereals, have low fiber content. The removal of Bran from the grains causes the lessening of fiber.
Health benefits of fiber
There are numerous benefits of Fiber intake. Some of these are as follows:
1. Weight Loss
As fibrous foods give us a fulfilling effect and stay in our stomach for a longer period of time we feel more satisfied and feel a lesser urge to eat more frequently. Most of us eat more and more fibrous foods when we want to shed off extra kilograms or fats, from our bodies. This eventually leads to weight loss and keeps our body fit and healthy.
2. Heart Diseases
A study showed that people who consume high fiber diets have a lower risk of heart diseases as fiber tends to act like a sponge that soaks up all the cholesterol. If you look into the physiology of it, you will know that a molecule of fiber binds with cholesterol as it moves through the bowel hence taking it outside the body. This cholesterol-lowering effect makes it a heart favorable food component. Fibers also reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome, which causes diabetes and heart diseases. A study showed that for every 7grams of fiber you take, you cut down your risk of developing heart disease by 9%. Moreover, fiber has also shown a remarkable role in lowering blood pressure. what more could you ask for?
3. Prevention of Diabetes
A study showed that individuals incorporating more than 26 grams of fiber in their daily diet reduce the odds of the disease by 18%. Those who have a low intake of fibers in the diet are more prone to Type 2 Diabetes. The diets which are high in fiber, slow down sugar absorption, improve insulin resistance, and also improve the level of sugar in the blood.
4. Digestive and Bowel Health
Dietary fibers in fruits and vegetables tend to increase the size and weight of our stool. This softens the stool which passes out easily and prevents constipation. In the same way, if anyone is having loose bowel and watery stools, the fiber intake should be increased as this adds the bulk to stool and by absorbing water, the stool solidifies.High fiber diets also lessen the risk of hemorrhoids in our colon, thus preventing diverticular diseases. Many studies showed that fibrous diets may lower the chances of colorectal cancer.
5. Longer Life
Researchers suggest that fiber-rich diets in our daily routine, lessen the chances of many life-threatening diseases like heart diseases and cancers. This helps us in living a longer and better life.
Side Effects of Excessive Fiber Consumption
Besides all these benefits, you must keep the intake moderate. As per nutritionists, the fiber intake should not be excessive that is not more than 70 gm/day. If we start taking more than 70gm of fiber, your body will start to alarm you about it and show different symptoms some of which are:
- Bloating and Gas: If taken in large amounts, fibers ferment in large intestines which causes gas or bloating. This fermentation causes flatulence. The best way to eat fibrous foods is to balance them with equal fluid intake.
- Absorption of Minerals: When the fiber is overloaded in our body, the absorption of other minerals like zinc, calcium, and iron are blocked. This is because fiber binds these minerals and does not let the body absorb these very important minerals.
- Other Problems: Many other problems are also associated with excessive fiber intake such as:
- Abdominal cramping
The bottom line is that high fiber diets are beneficial for our health. But intake of fiber should always be in a moderate amount as excessive consumption may lead to intestinal and stomach problems.