Do I really need Fiber?

By: Nahid Khilji

 

Nahid Khilji

Fiber is all that you have been hearing these days on TV commercials. Dietary fiber is found in cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables. Fiber like other nutrients is essential for healthy living. But do you know why fiber is good for your health? We shall see ahead.

 

What is fiber?

Fiber, by definition, is the indigestible portion of plant foods. This means that this part of plant is not digested by the body. It is excreted by the body. This does not mean it has no functional role to play. Though it does not provide any vital nutrient, it increases stool bulk and promotes movement of the materials through the digestive track.

Types of fiber

Soluble Fiber: It dissolves in water. It has the ability to hold water and form gel. It binds with the cholesterol in the blood and excretes it via stool reducing the total cholesterol levels in our body. Sources of soluble fiber are: oatmeal, lentils, apple, oranges, pears, carrots etc.

Insoluble Fiber: It does not dissolve in water like soluble fiber. It is gut healthy fiber as it has a laxative effect and adds bulk to the diet relieving constipation. Sources of insoluble

fiber include bran, whole grains, broccoli, vegetable skin, brown rice cabbage etc.

Benefits of Fiber rich Foods:

1) Fiber softens and adds bulk to the stools making it easy to pass reducing the chance of constipation.

2) High fiber diet reduces the risk of hemorrhoids/piles and diverticular disease which is often seen in people consuming low fiber diet.

3) Fiber lowers cholesterol levels by lowering total and low density lipoprotein cholesterol often referred to as “bad cholesterol” by decreasing the cholesterol absorption of cholesterol or fatty acids. Fiber can also affect cholesterol metabolism by affecting certain hormones involved in the making of cholesterol in our body. It has also known to play a significant role in reducing the risk of heart diseases, by lowering total cholesterol which blocks the arteries of the heart leading to heart attack, atherosclerosis etc. It is also heart friendly.

4) Fiber also helps a lot in diabetes. It helps in controlling the blood sugar levels. Long term consumption of insoluble fiber also improves glucose tolerance. High fiber food generally have low glycemic index, thus it helps in keeping an optimum range of blood sugar.

5) Fiber also plays a role in normalizing high blood pressure in hypertensive patients.

6) Fiber helps in losing weight. It delays the emptying of your stomach and makes you feel full for long. This delays in your hunger pangs and helps in controlling weight.

8) It prevents a person from colon cancer, by diluting the carcinogens and also by providing bulk to the stool and promoting the growth of good bacteria.

How much of fiber do I need in my diet?

The recommended amount dietary fiber is 14gm for every 1000 kcals you consume.

 Note: Nahid Khilji is a qualified dietitian, health coach and a diabetic educator. Her writings are aimed to motive and guides people to have an holistic approach towards life. She can be reached at: [email protected]

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