Dietary fiber includes all parts of plant foods unable to be digested nor absorbed by humnan body. It passes relatively intact through stomach, small intestine, colon and out of human body.
Fiber is commonly classified as soluble (water soluble) or insoluble (water dissoluble):
It dissolves in water forming a gel-like material. It can lowering blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in apples, barley, beans, carrots, citrus fruits, oats, peas and psyllium.
It promotes the movement of material through human digestive system thus increasing stool bulk and beneficial to people suffering constipation or irregular stools. Beans, nuts, wheat bran, whole-wheat flour and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber.
Most plant-based foods, such as bean and oatmeal, contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Their amount varies in different plant foods. Eating a wide variety of high-fiber foods is beneficial to health.
Benefits of a high-fiber diet
A high-fiber diet has following benefits
- Helps maintain bowel health
High-fiber diet lowers the risk in developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in colon (diverticular disease). Some fiber is fermented in the colon. Researches are being conducted to look at how it may play a role in preventing diseases of the colon.
- Control blood sugar levels
People with diabetes, fiber (particularly soluble fiber) can slow the absorption of sugar, thus improving blood sugar levels. A healthy diet including insoluble fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Lowers cholesterol levels
Soluble fiber found in beans, flaxseed, oats and oat bran may lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Studies also have shown that fiber may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
- Normalizes bowel movements
Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing the chance of constipation. For loose and watery stools, fiber may solidify the stool because it absorbs water adding bulk to stool.
- Aids in achieving healthy weight
High-fiber diets have fewer calories for the same volume of food.
- Another benefit attributed to dietary fiber is prevention of colorectal cancer. However, the evidence that fiber reduces colorectal cancer is mixed.
- Consume different types of food rich in dietary fibre because dietary fibre from different food serve different functions.
- Dietary fibre absorbs a lot of water. For dietary fibre to function effectively, a daily intake of 6-8 glasses of fluid is required.
- Increase dietary fibre intake gradually to avoid gastrointestinal upset from sudden intake of large amounts of dietary fibre.
- Obtain dietary fibre from food rather than fibre tablets, powder or other supplements.
- Take fruits and vegetables together with the skin, like unpeeled plums, grapes.
- Fresh fruit is better than fruit juice because most of the dietary fibre in fruit is damaged when it is squeezed to make juice and/or filtered. Replace fruit juice with fruit pulps (fruit purées),
- Although dietary fibre is important to health, we should not neglect other food types. A balanced diet and regular exercise are of utmost importance to good health.
fruit purée – fruits, including peel, ground into a thick liquid
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