You have probably heard or read that is highly important to include Fiber in your diet, right? But what is Fiber? In which foods can you find it? What are the benefits to include Dietary Fiber in your diet? In this article I want to help clarify these common questions.
What is Fiber?
Fiber is not a nutrient itself. It helps your body eliminate toxins, prevent diseases and even help you lose weight. It has very important functions, especially in the intestine.
Dietary fiber (DF) is included between the classification of carbohydrates. The definition of fiber is still not entirely clear yet. We can say that it is all the material from plants that escapes intestinal digestion by action of enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract. This does not mean that fiber is not degraded or metabolized, in fact much of it is fermented in the colon producing compounds that the body absorbs and uses.
What are the types of fiber?
Insoluble and soluble Fiber, but what are those? This is the classification given to the nutritional level of the fiber, to differentiate their properties.
The soluble fiber are pectins, gums and other plant components, that are soluble in water. These ones allow the fermentation in the colon to produce compounds that are absorbed by the body. Insoluble fiber, is not soluble in water, and is the part of the plant mainly form by polyphenols. This one hardly undergoes fermentation in the colon, acting primarily as intestinal regulator.
Returning to the definition of fiber, we have said that these are components of plants, but in which foods can we find fiber?
Fiber can be found in cereals, fruits, vegetables and legumes:
- We find mostly insoluble fiber, in grains (whole grain) such as oats, corn and wheat bran, nut, seeds, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes .
- On the other hand we found soluble fibre in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
What are the health benefits of a hight fiber diet in you diet?When we eat high-fiber food, we tend to chew more, by its texture, which facilitates the flow of gastric juice. This, plus the increased secretion of saliva, accelerate the feeling of fullness in the stomach and slowing down drain. This plus the low caloric content that fiber-rich food tend to have, helps us reduce energy intake and in the end lose weight. It sounds good, right?
But that is not all:
- Fiber is also a source of energy, especially for the operation of the colon. On average one gram of fiber gives us 2 Kcal. Fiber absorbs and dilutes a number of carcinogens that may be present in the colon.
- It can reduce risk of colon cancer. The insoluble fiber promotes intestinal transit through the small intestine. This decrease the time when carcinogens are in contact with the walls of the intestine, reducing the risk of diverticulosis and eventually colon cancer.
- Several research studies have demonstrated the positive effects of fiber in reducing cholesterol levels. Individuals that have followed a diet rich in soluble dietary fiber and low in fat, especially saturated fats, have seen this benefit. The components that help decrease cholesterol are called polyphenols, which are present in the soluble fraction of the fiber.
- The presence of fiber in the diet causes a delay in glucose uptake in the intestine, this process is also associated specifically with soluble fiber content. This is very important in the control of insulin production, also, it favor the production of glycogen. Glycogen is important component in the formation of our muscles and reduces the transformation of carbohydrates into triglycerides.
As you can see, adding foods including high fiber provides many benefits, especially to prevent serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and diabetes.
How much fiber is it advisable to consume per day to get all these benefits?
According to the American Dietetics Association, the recommended fiber intake should be between 25 g/day for women and 35 g/day for men. However, this intake should come from foods, not supplements, since the benefits are not the same. The diet should include between 5 and 10 g of soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. More or less a relation of 40%/60% soluble/insoluble.Currently, in the United States, the average consumption is between 12 and 17 g/day. As you can see these values are well below the recommended and there has been a downward trend in recent years.Something I would like you to remember is that the portions of fiber in your diet come from food rather than fiber supplements. Why? Because consumption of fiber food also contribute complex carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins, which are not provided by supplements or dietary preparations. Also, the beneficial effects of fiber intake will be more if you follow a diet low in saturated fats, animal protein intake and whole grains.
How can you add these amounts of fiber to your diet?
It seems much but actually it is not and is very easy to get. For example:
- For a woman, you should eat about 25 grams per day:
- A suggestion can be: one-third cup of whole grain at breakfast (9 g fiber), half cup of cooked beans at lunch (10 g fiber), a small apple with skin for snack (4 g fiber) and half cup of mixed vegetables for dinner (4 g fiber).
- For a man, 35 g per day can be obtained by:
- Consuming the same as the specified above for a woman plus 23 almonds for breakfast (4 g fiber), a baked potato at lunch (3 g fiber) and 2 oranges at dinner (6 g fiber).
Simple, isn’t it? I encourage you to make a goal for yourself to include foods with hight fiber in your diet. However I advise to do it gradually especially if you are not currently consuming lots of fiber. Remember that fiber increases intestinal motility which could cause you diarrhea (ups)
I recommend you to consult with your trusted doctor before making any changes in your diet.