High fiber diet, uses and sources of dietary fiber.
What is dietary fiber or high fiber diet?
Dietary fiber is that part of fruits, vegetables, or grains that your body cannot digest. A fiber is an essential part of our diet like minerals or vitamins, but many of us do not attach much importance to it. There are many misconceptions surrounding it, for dietary fiber conjures up images of eating unpalatable food. Most people avoid dietary fiber because of this pre-conceived idea.
Dietary fiber is found only in plant food- no animal food contains dietary fiber. The recommended amount of dietary fiber is 20 – 30 grams per person depending on age, weight, gender etc. But an average person needs about 25 grams at least of dietary fiber. Studies show that an average person consumes only 15 grams or less of fiber in their diet.
The need for dietary fiber
Fiber is important for digestion and the prevention of various diseases. Having a high fiber diet is like having your intestines and digestive system cleaned and serviced. Not consuming enough high fiber foods causes constipation, poor digestion and a sluggish system, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis etc etc.
Soluble Fiber and Insoluble dietary Fiber and their uses
There are two types of dietary fiber; one is the soluble fiber and the other is insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber is dissolved in water and forms a gel in the intestines, enabling the absorption of excess water and slows down the movement of food in the intestines. It is filling and also increases digestion time and helps reduce food intake. It is good for lowering cholesterol or blood sugar levels as it binds with fats and toxins and flushes them out cleansing the entire body.
The insoluble fiber basically remains unchanged in the intestines. It is a bulking agent and acts like a brush, speeding up the elimination of waste from the digestive system,. It softens stools and promotes regularity in the elimination of waste matter from the body.
Sources of fiber
All plant foods are good sources of dietary fiber. Soluble fiber is found in vegetables, whole grains, seeds, peas, oats and oat bran, flaxseed, beans (chick peas, kidney beans, baked beans, and black beans), fiber supplements like psyllium husks, etc.
Insoluble fiber is found in whole wheat, wheat bran, vegetables such as cauliflower and green beans and the skins of fruits and root vegetables. It would be better to consume fruits instead of fruit juices, and raw vegetables instead of cooked ones. If vegetables need to be cooked, they are best steamed or sautéed lightly to ensure high fiber content.
Having a high fiber diet is good, but if one is not used to high fiber in their diet it needs to be done slowly over a ten or fifteen days. If a high fiber diet is introduced suddenly the individual may end up having diarrhea, bloating of stomach, gas and even abdominal cramps. So, make sure to give your digestive system time to slowly adjust to the change . Add fruits and salads, whole grains, in small quantities at first and increase servings and portions slowly. Another precaution with high fiber diet is to ensure the intake of plenty of water as soluble fiber absorbs water and cause constipation.
Top ten diseases that can be prevented /controlled with dietary fiber.
Heart attacks and strokes.
The WHO estimated in 2002 that 12.6 percent of worldwide deaths were from ischemic heart disease as the leading cause of death in developed countries. Soluble fiber like those from oatmeal, okra, oranges, flaxseed, beans , peas psyllium etc, bind with the fatty acid and reduce the cholesterol levels that cause the blockage of arteries leading to heart attacks and strokes.
The current prevalence of diabetes according to the WHO is 2.8% of the world population, and is expected to increase to 4.4% in 2030. Such figures suggest that drastic measures need to be taken to control this disease. A few life style changes like eating a high fiber diet will be a simple way to stay healthy. Soluble fiber binds not only the fatty acids in the digestive system but hinders the absorption of glucose in the blood stream to a certain extent.
A high fiber diet, is a fiber weight loss diet. Consumption of soluble fibers causes the stomach to register a feeling of being full. This also forms a gel in the digestive system and moves slowly, hindering the absorption of glucose leading to eating lesser quantities of food and lesser absorption of the sugars and fatty acid. So, the storage of these as fats in the body is also reduced.
The quality of insoluble fibers to keep stools soft safeguards the system from the development of appendicitis.
Cancer of the colon
Studies have proved that a high fiber diet defends the body from cancer of the colon, rectal cancer etc. Dietary fiber is the skeletal framework of a plant. The fiber we eat passes directly through our small intestine into our colon and out. High fiber foods help keep the colon healthy and promote regularity. Fiber flushes out cancer causing compounds out of the digestive system quickly.
Diverticulosis is the inflammation in the digestive tract, this can also be prevented by a high fiber diet. Insoluble fibers speeded up the bowel movement and do not allow the food to remain stagnant for long.
Constipation can be totally avoided if there is intake of sufficient quantities of fiber and water.
ImpotenceStudies have proved that dietary fiber helps in keeping the flow of blood strong veins unclogged and thereby improving potency.
High fiber diets prevent gallbladder diseases, varicose veins and hiatal hernia.
Change to a high fiber diets and make lifestyle changes for health
Include foods like whole grain cereals in your breakfast topped with fresh and dry fruits, or whole wheat bread with fruits both fresh and dry , or choose muffins with bran.
Have salad including celery, carrots, Brussels spouts, etc or have steamed or lightly sautéed vegetables at lunch time. Have a dessert, if you must, of yogurt and strawberries or dried fruits of your choice.
Snack on fresh and dry fruits, and eat the skins of fruits.
Substitute processed food or white rice with unprocessed grain and brown rice.
Add beans, or lentils to soups to make them high in fiber. Also add vegetables to all your meat dishes to ensure that enough fiber is eaten.
Fiber supplements such as Metamucil made from psyllium may also be considered in special cases of dental problems.
Making a lifestyle change of shifting to a high fiber diet will help lead a healthy life.
The information presented here is not meant to be taken as a nutritional or medical advice but with a view of creating an awareness among readers for the need to incorporate a high fiber diet for a healthy life.