Fiber is naturally found in the cell walls of plants where it offers structural functions. In humans, fiber is indigestible and contains negligible amounts of calories and nutritional value. Nevertheless, dietary fiber intake is associated with a number of health benefits.
What Are The Best Ways To Get Natural Fiber In Your Diet?
We often get our dietary fiber naturally from plant foods. Therefore, the best ways to get enough natural fiber into your diet is to eat plant-based foods rich in high amounts of fiber such as whole grain cereals, vegetables, and fruits.
- You need to replace animal proteins from meat, fish, and poultry products with plant proteins. For example, legumes like beans, peas, soybeans, kidney beans, lentils, etc.
- Choose whole grain foods over processed foods. For example, oats, wheat, barley, rice, corn, etc.
- Make vegetables as part of your diet. A variety of vegetables include lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, dandelion, watercress, red clover, plantain, chickweed, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, etc.
- Consider replacing sweetened beverages and fizzy drinks for your snacks with a variety of fruits. For example, apples, avocado, banana, berries, dates, grapes, guava, lemon, mangoes, melons, oranges, papaya, strawberry, etc.
Typically, your natural dietary fiber may be in the form of either soluble or insoluble fibers.
- Soluble fibers are mainly found in plant cells in the form of gums, pectins, and mucilage. Good sources of soluble fibers include vegetables, fruits, and whole grain cereals such as barley, oat bran, flaxseed, dried beans, peas, lentils, seed husks, oatmeal, psyllium, soy products, and among others.
- Insoluble fibers are richly-packed within the structural parts of plant cell walls like lignin, cellulose, and hemicelluloses. Excellent sources of insoluble fibers include whole grain cereal foods such as wheat bran, rice bran, corn bran, kidney beans; skins of fruits and vegetables; and nuts and seeds.
Why Dietary Fiber Matters
Dietary fiber is vital within our body for several reasons. High dietary fiber intake is known to improve the health of the digestive system. Dietary fiber is relatively indigestible; thus, adds bulk to the feces. In particular, soluble fiber acts like a sponge in absorbing water of the digested food material into the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) by allowing it to pass through the GIT more easily. It also slows down the rate of digestion process by increasing the time that food passes through the GIT. In contrast, insoluble fiber overrides the slowing down effect of digestion; that is, does not absorb water and speeds up the rate at which food passes through the gut.
Consumption of high-fiber diets reduces the risks of gastrointestinal disorders such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, bowel cancer, and other digestive health problems. Fibrous foods also protect against many life-threatening diseases, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and diet-related cancers.
Soluble fiber plays a critical role in lowering the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood; thus, reducing the risks of coronary heart disease and hypertension. It also reduces the production of insulin by the pancreas and slows down the glucose absorption from the small intestines into the blood. This helps to stabilize blood sugars (glucose) levels in the body and reduce the increased risks of diabetes. Additionally, insoluble fibers help to clean out the digestive tract, prevent constipation and associated digestive problems related to hemorrhoids.
Dietary foods with high-fiber intake prevent against weight gain. Fibrous foods are often bulky and, therefore, provide a hunger-squelching effect, a feeling of fullness or satisfaction. For example, soluble fiber forms a gel that delays the emptying of the stomach and the subsequent transit time in which food passes through the GIT. As a result, dietary fiber ensures fewer calories intake in the body, moderates an individual’s eating behavior by reducing their food cravings, and reduces the possibility of weight gain.
How You Can Help
If you want to help clients with food, diet, weight management and improving the results of their fitness routines, the Fitness Nutrition Coach course is for you. You will learn about optimal nutrition, including proven techniques for increasing energy, optimal health and decreased dependence on medications. Instantly increase your job and career opportunities with this popular professional credential.
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