Fiber is Essential to a Healthy Diet
A lot of diseases can be controlled by keeping a fiber diet. Among these conditions are diabetes and heart diseases. It is also recommended for persons who are undergoing treatment for various digestive problems like haemorrhoids, diarrhea and constipation. Although there's been no definitive study yet that it's the fiber content in foods that makes them effective in treating these diseases, most health practitioners agree on a fiber diet's health benefits.
The American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends that the average adult consume 25-35 grams of dietary fiber per day. Research has shown that the average American only consumes 14 to 15 grams per day.
Research has shown that fiber may benefit health in several different ways, by alleviating symptoms associated with gastrointestinal disorders and has such possible health benefits as lowering cholesterol levels and losing weight. Do not consume during acute flare-ups.
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Fiber in one’s diet also prevents diverticulosis, the condition that makes possible the illness called diverticulitis, the inflammation of the inner lining of the colon, or large intestine. A fiber diet also helps people who are trying to control their weight.
Learning about fiber will help one appreciate better this important food component. People who are suffering from conditions that have to do with the digestive system, especially the colon, or large intestine, should be familiar with fiber and how it brings benefits to the body.
Fiber is generally understood as any of those substances that are found in the exterior layer of plants and grains and are not usually digested. Its role in one’s diet is that it aids in digestion of other kinds of foods and controls the stool’s consistency.
Insoluble Fiber, Insoluble Fiber
Fiber is of two types, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is that kind of fiber which consists of carbohydrates. This type of fiber is dissoluble in water. Some of the examples of soluble carbohydrate fiber are oats, barley, fruits and legumes, like beans and peas. Fiber that is insoluble, on the other hand, includes grains, like rye and wheat. As its description suggests, it cannot be dissolved in water. A combination of insoluble and soluble fiber is what comprises a dietary fiber.
High fiber carries with it numerous health benefits. Insoluble fiber, like vegetables and fruits, is said to be effective in treating problems regarding digestion, including chronic diarrhea and hemorrhoids. Fiber softens the stool and allows bowel movement to be more regular. Soluble fiber reduces the risk of having conditions like disease of the coronary artery. It reduces by forty to fifty percent the chances of one suffering from stroke. Soluble fiber is also effective in reducing the chances of one suffering from diabetes by controlling one’s glucose levels.
Current recommendations from the United States National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, suggest that adults should consume 20–35 grams of dietary fiber per day, but the average American's daily intake of dietary fiber is only 12–18 grams.
Dietary fiber or Dietary fibre or sometimes roughage is the indigestible portion of plant foods having two main components:
- soluble (prebiotic, viscous) fiber that is readily fermented in the colon into gases and physiologically active byproducts, and
- insoluble fiber that is metabolically inert, absorbing water throughout the digestive system and easing defecation
It acts by changing the nature of the contents of the gastrointestinal tract, and by changing how other nutrients and chemicals are absorbed. Soluble fiber absorbs water to become a gelatinous, viscous substance and is fermented by bacteria in the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber has bulking action and is not fermented, although a major dietary insoluble fiber source, lignin, may alter the fate and metabolism of soluble fibers.
Chemically, dietary fiber consists of non-starch polysaccharides such as arabinoxylans, cellulose and many other plant components such as resistant dextrins, inulin, lignin, waxes, chitins, pectins, beta-glucans and oligosaccharides. A novel position has been adopted by the US Department of Agriculture to include functional fibers as isolated fiber sources that may be included in the diet.
The term "fiber" is somewhat of a misnomer, since many types of so-called dietary fiber are not fibers at all. Food sources of dietary fiber are often divided according to whether they provide (predominantly) soluble or insoluble fiber. Plant foods contain both types of fiber in varying degrees, according to the plant's characteristics.
Advantages of consuming fiber are the production of salubrious compounds during the fermentation of soluble fiber, and insoluble fiber's ability (via its passive hydrophilic properties) to increase bulk, soften stool and shorten transit time through the intestinal tract.
The Last Judge In The Digestive System
A diet high in fiber is also recommended for colon health. The colon, more known as the large intestine, is one of the parts of the digestive system. Along with other parts of the digestive tract, the colon is responsible for the processing of food, and digesting and converting it to nutrients that the body needs.
A food item that is considered high in fiber content must contain two to five grams of fiber at every serving. Some food items that claim to have added fiber content usually contains at least two grams of fiber.
The Importance Of Having A Healthy Colon
The colon is also the last organ in the digestive system. It completes the digestive process. Whether a particular type of food brings benefits to the body or causes it harm, it’s the colon that determines it. A fiber diet keeps the colon in healthy shape.
The role of the colon, or the large intestine, is crucial in eliminating foods that don’t bring any health benefits to the body. If your colon is healthy, the fecal matters that your body doesn’t need are converted as waste products. Fecal matters that are not useful to the body contain bacteria that can cause a number of diseases. . A healthy colon will rid your body of fecal matters the body does not need. These fecal matters, or stool, are waste products that have to be discarded from the body. Stool that is not properly discarded causes pain, gas and bloating.
As an important part of the body’s digestive system, the colon has to be kept healthy. A fiber diet can help the colon perform its job most effectively.
The Side Sffects Of Fiber
Despite all the positive effects fiber brings to the body, it can still compromise one’s health in some cases. Having fiber diet doesn’t mean getting nothing but health benefits for your body all the time. Not everybody reacts positively to fiber in the body. Many people, especially those suffering from problematic bowel movement, are advised to solve their colon problem by means other than a high fiber diet.
There are a number of cases where fiber brings more harm than good. Fiber has its own side effects, something that all health-conscious individuals must keep in mind.
Foremost of these side effects is that the person will suffer pain and discomfort in the abdominal area. But this can be remedied by a well-planned diet. To avoid the side effects of fiber in the body, the patient must start with a small amount then gradually increasing it until the body’s waste products are soft enough to pass.
Examples Of Fiber Foods
The list of foods that are rich in fiber include whole grains like popcorn, brown rice and barley, bagels, buns, breakfast cereals, muffins, and whole wheat pastas.
Although fruits are great anti-oxidants and are excellent providers of nutrients for the body, not all of them are rich in fiber. Fiber fruits include those that are dried like apricots, prunes, dates and raisins. The list also includes berries, oranges, avocado, mango, apple with skin and kiwi.
Vegetables are also excellent sources of vitamins and other nutrients. But like fruits, not all vegetables are high in fiber. High fiber vegetables include dark and leafy greens like swiss chard and spinach. The list also includes cauliflower, broccoli, celery, squash, green peas, eggplant, and tomatoes.
Anybody who is planning to have fiber diet must have any combination of these fruits and vegetables. Most importantly, he must consult a doctor, a nutritionist or a dietician to check if any of these foods can cause adverse reaction in his body. One’s diet is such an important part of a person’s health regimen that an expert’s advice is required.
Fiber recommendations in North America
On average, North Americans consume less than 50% of the dietary fiber levels recommended for good health. In the preferred food choices of today's youth, this value may be as low as 20%, a factor considered by experts as contributing to the obesity crisis seen in many developed countries.
Recognizing the growing scientific evidence for physiological benefits of increased fiber intake, regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States have given approvals to food products making health claims for fiber.
In clinical trials to date, these fiber sources were shown to significantly reduce blood cholesterol levels, an important factor for general cardiovascular health, and to lower risk of onset for some types of cancer.
Fiber recommendations in the UK
In June 2007, the British Nutrition Foundation issued a statement to define dietary fiber more concisely and list the potential health benefits established to date:
'Dietary fiber' has been used as a collective term for a complex mixture of substances with different chemical and physical properties which exert different types of physiological effects. The use of certain analytical methods to quantify 'dietary fiber' by nature of its indigestibility results in many other indigestible components being isolated along with the carbohydrate components of dietary fiber. These components include resistant starches and oligosaccharides along with other substances that exist within the plant cell structure and contribute to the material that passes through the digestive tract. Such components are likely to have physiological effects. Yet, some differentiation has to be made between these indigestible plant components and other partially digested material, such as protein, that appears in the large bowel. Thus, it is better to classify fiber as a group of compounds with different physiological characteristics, rather than to be constrained by defining it chemically. Diets naturally high in fiber can be considered to bring about several main physiological consequences:
- helps prevent constipation
- reduces the risk of colon cancer
- improvements in gastrointestinal health
- improvements in glucose tolerance and the insulin response
- reduction of hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and other coronary heart disease risk factors
- reduction in the risk of developing some cancers
- increased satiety and hence some degree of weight management
Therefore, it is not appropriate to state that fiber has a single all encompassing physiological property as these effects are dependent on the type of fiber in the diet. The beneficial effects of high fiber diets are the summation of the effects of the different types of fiber present in the diet and also other components of such diets. Defining fiber physiologically allows recognition of indigestible carbohydrates with structures and physiological properties similar to those of naturally occurring dietary fibers.
Optimal Fiber Choices
If you aren't getting enough fiber each day, you may need to boost your intake. Good choices include:
- Grains and whole-grain products
- Beans, peas and other legumes
- Nuts and seeds
Refined or processed foods — such as canned fruits and vegetables and pulp-free juice, white bread and pasta, and non-whole-grain cereals — are lower in fiber content. The grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fiber content. Similarly, removing the skin from fruits and vegetables decreases their fiber content.
Whole foods rather than fiber supplements are generally better. Fiber supplements — such as Metamucil, Citrucel and FiberCon — don't provide the vitamins, minerals and other beneficial nutrients that high-fiber foods do. However, some people may still need a fiber supplement if dietary changes aren't sufficient, or if they have certain medical conditions such as constipation, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome. Always check with your doctor if you feel you need to take fiber supplements.
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