For one to stay healthy, proper diet and regular exercise is very important. According to the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), as we grow older, it becomes necessary to consume a diet which is rich in fiber and low in carbohydrates, and this consists of about 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day.
What Is Fiber?
Fiber is also known as roughage. It is the indigestible part of plant foods that pushes through our digestive system, absorbing water along the way and easing bowel movements.
The word fiber (North American) can also be spelled fibre (British). It comes from the Latin word fibra, meaning fiber, thread, string, filament, entrails. Dietary fiber refers to nutrients in the diet that are not digested by gastrointestinal enzymes.
Fiber is found in all plant foods, like vegetables and fruits as well as in legumes and whole grains. This complex food element is not absorbed or digested completely like most other food, and passes through the digestive tract mostly as a whole. This way of digesting helps in the movement of stool and harmful carcinogens from the body.
Types of Fiber
A fiber-rich diet must include both types of fiber – soluble and insoluble.
Soluble Fiber – Soluble fiber dissolves in water. It changes as it goes through the digestive tract, where it is fermented by bacteria. As it absorbs water it becomes gelatinous. The food rich in soluble fiber are oats, oat bran, legumes, and fruits. These dissolve with water in the body and form a gel like substance that helps in lowering the cholesterol and glucose level.
Insoluble Fiber – Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. As it goes through the digestive tract it does not change its form. Food like whole wheat bran, wheat, rye, sprouts, and nuts are rich in insoluble fiber. Intake of these aid in moving waste from the body through the digestive tract as these fibers absorb water and form a bulk which moves quickly.
A high fiber diet has no calories and helps in weight loss (as it gives a feeling of fullness and helps in eating less), fights constipation, and regulates digestive disorders. Low fiber diet increases the risk of colon cancer and heart ailments.
Benefits of soluble fiber:
It reduces cholesterol, especially levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) It regulates sugar intake, this is especially useful for people with diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Food sources of soluble fiber include: kidney beans, pinto beans, brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, apples, oranges, grapefruit, grapes, prunes, oatmeal, and whole-wheat bread.
Benefits of insoluble fiber:
Promotes regular bowel movements and prevents constipation Speeds up the elimination of toxic waste through the colon By keeping an optimal pH in the intestines, insoluble fiber helps prevent microbes from producing substances which can lead to colorectal cancer Food sources of insoluble fiber include: vegetables – especially dark green leafy ones, root vegetable skins, fruit skins, whole wheat products, wheat bran, corn bran, nuts, and seeds.
It is important to note that a balanced diet should consist of all food forms. One must not eliminate other food to consume high fiber diet. Just make sure that your diet has good fiber as it will reduce the risk of ailments like cancer, diabetes, and gastrointestinal problems, and also help in losing weight.