The role of plant foods in human nutrition is enormous. In addition to vitamins, bioflavonoids, and minerals, green foods contain dietary fiber, which is critical for maintaining health.
Dietary fiber not only keeps your bowels moving regularly. These coarse food components also help to maintain a constant blood glucose level, lower cholesterol, get rid of extra pounds, and even prolong life.
All these benefits can be obtained by including in the diet only both types of dietary fiber: soluble (pectins, alginates, poly dextrose) and insoluble (cellulose, aka fiber, hemicellulose, lignin). Both of these groups are complex carbohydrates of plant origin. But unlike other carbohydrates, dietary fiber is not digested or absorbed in the digestive system. On the contrary, as they move through the digestive tract, they slow down digestion, normalize the consistency of feces and facilitate its elimination.
Most foods contain both soluble and insoluble fibers, but usually with a predominance of one of the groups. Soluble fibers absorb water, turning into a jelly-like mass (such as when we add water to oatmeal), while insoluble fibers do not absorb water (for example, when you pour water over celery pieces).
Foods rich in soluble fiber include oatmeal, nuts, legumes, apples, and blueberries.
Positive health effects include:
- Protecting the cardiovascular system. Being in the digestive tract, soluble fibers bind cholesterol particles, removing it from the body. Thus, they lower the overall level of cholesterol, reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. This effect is especially pronounced for oatmeal and flakes.
- Protection against diabetes. Due to their poor digestibility and absorption, soluble fibers do not lead to significant spikes in blood glucose levels, which is the prevention of type II diabetes, and in case of an existing disease, they help to control the condition.
- Weight loss.
Soluble fiber can also help you achieve or maintain a healthy body weight by creating a feeling of fullness without adding a lot of calories to your diet.
- Healthy intestinal motility. Soluble dietary fiber absorbs water as it passes through the digestive tract, which creates the correct consistency of feces and protects against constipation and diarrhea.
Foods rich in insoluble fibers include seeds, fruit peels, whole grain flour and bread, brown rice, carrots, cabbage, and greens.
Positive health effects include:
- Weight loss. Like soluble fibers, insoluble types can play a key role in maintaining body weight by delaying the “hunger pangs”.
- Healthy digestion. Consuming plenty of insoluble fiber also helps to keep your bowels moving regularly.
If you suffer from constipation, eat more fiber and everything will improve. Insoluble dietary fiber can also improve the condition of such intestinal problems as hemorrhoids, fecal incontinence, i.e. those related to the control of colon motility.
What can dietary fiber do to you?
- Although many of us don’t really get enough of them in our diet, a sharp increase in dietary fiber intake can cause excessive gas, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Dietary fiber absorbs water, so you need to consume enough fluids – more than a liter a day.
- With low water intake, fiber can aggravate constipation.
- In case of inflammatory processes in the pancreas and intestines, fiber consumption can exacerbate the process.
- With prolonged use, fiber helps to eliminate fat-soluble vitamins and minerals from the body.
- Dietary fiber can affect the absorption of medications, so a doctor’s consultation is required.
- Lignin affects sex hormones by reducing testosterone activity.
Rules for the consumption of dietary fiber
To ensure that fiber and other fibers do not harm your health, you need to remember about:
- sufficient intake of vitamins.
- Adequate intake of fluids (water).
- Adequate intake of calories (since fiber contains little of them).
- When eating a vegetarian diet, you should remember about the need to take calcium.
Contraindications to the use of dietary fiber
There are situations when a person needs to follow a low-fiber diet. This usually applies to people undergoing chemotherapy, after radiation, or before/after surgery. In such cases, it is necessary to provide rest to the intestinal tract.
However, people with Crohn’s disease, intestinal inflammation, diverticula, and ulcerative colitis will need to follow a diet low in dietary fiber for a longer period of time.
Chronic diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, diarrhea, flatulence, reflux, food allergies and intolerance to certain foods are reasons to reduce the amount of fiber in food.
Dietary fiber content in some products per 100 g:
- Bran 44g.
- Flax seeds 27g.
- Mushrooms 25g.
- Rose hips (berries) 22g.
- Figs 18g.
- Apricot 18g.
- Rye 16g.
- Almonds 15g.
- Green peas 12g.
- Whole wheat 10g.
- Whole grain bread 8.5g.
- Corn 6g.
- Peas 5.8g.
- Raspberries 5g.
- Beans 4g.