Fiber is a well-known word in dietary circles. You must have come across the word in health/fitness articles centered on food.
This article is about this food substance; what it is, what class of food it is, its essence in our daily diets, the food types that contain it and what happens to a body that lacks sufficient amount of it.
What is Fiber?
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that can be found in plant-sourced food, it is not digestible in humans.
Although fiber cannot be digested, it is mobile in the digestive tract as nutrients are being digested, and can do beneficial things that can positively boost our health.
It’s in the class of food known as carbohydrate but, unlike other types of carbs, it cannot be transformed or metabolized into digestible sugar molecules. Therefore, fiber passes through the intestinal tract relatively whole and untouched from the digestion process.
However, as it goes along the digestive tract, fiber does a lot of work. Fiber can also be called dietary fiber, roughage or bulk.
The Institute of Medicine (U.S.A) has set a recommended daily amount/dosage (RDA) for intake of fiber.
Men aged 50 and below should ingest 38 grams of fiber daily and men 51 and above should ingest 30 grams.
Women aged 50 and below should ingest 25 grams daily, while women above 50 years of age should ingest 21 grams per day.
Types of Fiber
According to Colorado State University, there are two known kinds of fiber in our daily diets; soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
According to Smathers, soluble fiber, such as pectin, gum and mucilage, dissolves in water and becomes a paste-like substance.
Insoluble fiber, such as hemicellulose, cellulose and lignin, do not dissolve. They mostly retain their form while in the body.
Both kinds of fiber have important benefits when included in our daily diets.
Soluble fiber is known to help lower blood sugar levels. It also helps decrease blood cholesterol.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, quickens the movement of food through the digestive tract. This helps to keep regularity and prevent constipation. It also increases fecal bulk, which makes stooling easier.
Why Should Fiber be in our Daily Diets?
1. Regulation of Blood Sugar (Blood Glucose)
A meta-analysis of studies concerning the nexus between fiber and blood glucose levels published in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found that fiber intake can significantly lower the blood glucose levels during the standard fasting blood glucose test.
The article revealed that levels of glycated haemoglobin also went down with increased fiber intake. Glycated haemoglobin is formed by the mixture of proteins in the blood with blood sugar. It is linked with heightened risk of diabetes complications.
Soluble fiber is particularly helpful in this regard.
2. It boosts the health of your Heart
Fiber also reduces the amount of cholesterol in the blood, according to Kelly Toups, a registered dietitian with the Whole Grains Council. Digestion requires bile acids, which are partly formed with cholesterol.
As your digestion gets better due to intake of fiber, the liver uses cholesterol from the blood to produce more bile acid, thereby lowering the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
3. Improves Digestion
This may be regarded as fiber’s primary benefit. Bulkier, softer feaces are easier to excrete than hard or watery ones.
This makes stooling more convenient and also helps maintain colorectal health.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a high-fiber diet may help lower the risk of hemorrhoids and diverticulitis (small, painful pouches on the colon).
4. Food Allergies and Asthmatic Inflammation
This isn’t an established fact yet. This theory comes down to the relationship between fiber and gut bacteria.
Scientists theorize that people are not producing the right gut bacteria to engage foods commonly linked with allergies, such as peanuts and shellfish.
Without the right bacteria for the job, particles sourced from these foods can gain entry into the bloodstream through the gut. Fiber helps in the production of a bacterium called Clostridia, which helps keep the gut protected.
This also explains why fiber might help people with asthma. Unwanted particles leaving the gut and gaining entry into the bloodstream can trigger an autoimmune response like asthmatic inflammation.
A 2013 animal study found that rodents eating a diet that is rich in fiber were less likely to experience asthmatic inflammation than rodents on a low- or average-fiber diet.
Having established some of the benefits of fiber, it is pertinent you get conversant with foods that are rich in fiber so you can consciously make them a part of your daily diet.
Foods Containing Rich Amounts of Fiber
Rich sources of soluble fiber include;
– Citrus fruits such as Orange, Guava, Lemon
Rich sources of insoluble fiber include;
– Whole-wheat flour
– Wheat bran
– Brown rice
Some foods, like nuts and carrots, are rich sources of both types of fiber.
What Happens to your Body when you don’t Consume Enough Fiber?
This is due to gas accumulating in your system certain consumables such as alcohol, processed foods and the likes.
2) Constipation and Bowel Movement Irregularity
Fiber helps to flush out stools and toxins from your body which means your colon is functioning smoothly. If you are constipated, this simply means the amount of fiber in your daily diet is too low.
If you have a healthy colon, you will have regular, frequent and soft bowel movements. If you eat foods low in fiber, they take longer periods to digest, lead to irregular bowel movements, watery stools and can also cause stomach pain.
3) Weight Gain
Fiber helps you to regulate your blood sugar and bind the starches in your body. It also helps you to check your weight because carbs are metabolized easier when enough fiber is present in your body. It also helps you maintain a healthy blood sugar level so you can avoid diseases like diabetes.
4) Unhealthy Skin
Without fiber to flush out toxins from the body, the skin will be dull and prone to acne.
Other things include;
– Increase in blood pressure levels
– Too little energy
– Foggy thinking.