Most of you would think that dietary fiber refers to a special diet that promotes losing weight. I would rather call it the essential background for healthy living. What is dietary fiber exactly? Dietary fiber includes the edible parts of plant foods that your bodies’ enzymes cannot digest or absorb. Unlike other food components, such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates which your body breaks down and absorbs.
Fiber isn’t digested by your body. Instead, it passes intact through your stomach, small intestine, and colon, out of your body. Importantly, dietary fibers can change the nature of the contents of the gastrointestinal tract. Moreover, they change how other nutrients and chemicals are absorbed.
There are two classifications of fiber. First one is soluble, which dissolves in water to form gel like material and another one is insoluble. Both types have important health benefits.
Soluble Fiber by definition is something that dissolves in water and becomes a gelatinous, viscous substance which may or may not be fermented by bacteria in the digestive tract. Eating soluble fiber food can result in an extended feeling of fullness. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, chia, figs, avocados, onions, flax seeds, nuts (almonds being the highest in dietary fiber), berries, and psyllium.
Insoluble Fiber is the type of fiber that promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk. Thus, it can benefit those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Insoluble fiber is mainly found in the seeds and skins of fruit. Always eat your peels as well as whole-wheat bread and brown rice.
Most plant-based foods, such as oatmeal and beans, contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Both plums and prunes have a thick skin covering a juicy pulp. The skin is a source of insoluble fiber, whereas soluble fiber is in the pulp. The amount of each type of fiber varies in different plant foods.
In order to receive health benefits from both, eat a wide variety of high fiber food. Whenever possible, try to eat whole foods rather than fiber supplements or refined and processed foods. Foods considered as processed and refined are canned fruits and vegetables, juices, white bread and pasta, and non-whole grain cereals. All of these are lower in fiber content.
Another way to get more fiber is to eat foods, such as cereal, granola bars, yogurt, and ice cream, with fiber added. The added fiber is usually labeled as “inulin” or “chicory root.” Some people complain of gassiness and bloating after eating foods with fiber added. However, I have mentioned that whole food is better than fiber supplements. In some cases where dietary changes are not sufficient or with certain medical conditions, they may still need supplements.
Keep in mind that high-fiber foods are good for your health, but adding too much fiber too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. A body does not like sudden changes when it comes to fiber intake. Increase fiber in your diet gradually over a period of a few weeks. This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change. Another important fact about consuming food rich in fiber is that it requires drinking plenty of water!