A few years ago, fiber was something that nobody wanted to use. However, today it is plastered all over packages at the supermarkets. Lately, manufacturers have introduced more than 1,500 high in fiber, whole-grain products, an increase of 121% since 2005. Nowadays we have high-fiber English muffins and whole-grain chocolate bars.
What is dietary fiber?
Fiber is a compound found only in plants. The fiber that we consume from plant foods is called dietary fiber. Dietary fiber consists of the not poisonous parts of plants that the body can’t digest or absorb and they end up in the large intestine intact.
Which are the types of dietary fiber?
Scientists have categorized fiber according to its solubility in water into soluble and insoluble. These two types of fiber are found in foods in different concentrations.
For example, foods high in soluble fiber are fruits, oats, vegetables, barley and pulses. On the contrary, insoluble fiber exists in wholegrain cereals as well as whole meal breads.
Although there is no daily recommended allowance on fiber, scientists recommend consuming 20-35gr per day. On average, although we have more and more foods high in fiber, peoples’ actual intake is approximately 15gr per day.
Where can you find fiber in your food?
Dietary fiber is abounding in vegetables like onion, garlic, peas, broccoli as well as fruits and whole grains. Brown rice, all bran or oatmeal and whole grain breads are high in dietary fiber as well.
Fiber and health
While fiber pass through the small intestine and reaches the large one, several by-products are formed. The health benefits of fiber come from the production of these by-products and the whole fermentation process in general.
Dietary fiber has been found to have beneficial action on bowel function, blood glucose levels and blood cholesterol. What is more, it is believed that fiber can “fight fat” and aid the weight loss process overall.
The insoluble fiber increase stool weight and decreases the gut transit time, thus it helps to the prevention of constipation. This process is enhanced when there is a parallel raise in water intake.
The short chain fatty acids that are produced during the fermentation process are an important source of energy for colon cells since they help to inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells in the gut.
For this beneficial effect in the gut, dietary fiber is believed to help in the prevention of bowel dysfunction and related diseases such as hemorrhoids and colon cancer.
Another role of dietary fiber is found in the prevention of coronary heart disease. Dietary fiber has been proven to improve blood lipid levels. Specifically, fibers like pectin and oat bran can decrease both total cholesterol levels and LDL (low density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol). These eliminations in blood lipoprotein levels have shown that can protect against coronary diseases. See also: How to increase good cholesterol
Blood glucose levels
Research has shown that soluble fiber slows digestion of carbohydrates and hence it lowers the rise in blood glucose and insulin response in the postprandial phase. This means that people with diabetes, by consuming soluble fiber can have a more stabilized profile of blood glucose and insulin levels.
Fiber and fat fight
Epidemiological studies have shown that a diet high in dietary fiber can prevent fat gain. Specifically, a recent study of approximately 3000 participants examined the effect of high dietary fiber intake to weight gain during a ten years period of time.
The results showed that participants who consumed the highest amount of dietary fiber weighed considerably lower than those with the lowest intake of dietary fiber intake.
What is more, data from a prospective study that examined 74,091 women participants showed that women, who raised dietary fiber intake mostly, put on about 3 less kilos than those women who did not increase their fiber intake over the period of 12 years.
As a result, augmenting dietary fiber intake is very possible to help an individual to sustain his weight over years.
Finally, in an analysis of 12 intervention studies on fiber, it was reported that an increased intake of dietary fiber was associated with a 2kg weight loss over 3 months.
Furthermore, participants that were obese at the beginning benefited from weight loss that was three times that of lean people. Thus it is clear that fiber have a great potential to fight fat!
Taking everything into consideration, fiber is great for your health and you should add it to your diet. In order to get all those benefits of fiber through your diet, you should vary the sources of fiber.
Diets that are high in vegetables, fruits, beans and lentils as well as whole grains, have been shown to promote health and well-being.