Dietary Fiber an Important Part of Healthy Diet

(Dr Waseem Razak, )

Dietary fiber, includes the parts of plant foods that your body cannot digest or absorb, unlike other food components, such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates which your body breaks down and absorbs. Mostly found in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, fiber passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine and colon and out of your body but provides a lot of health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. In other words, dietary fiber refers to nutrients in the diet that are not digested by gastrointestinal enzymes but still fulfil an important role and has been proved as an important part of healthy diet and supports many different body systems.
It is classified in two major groups:
1. Soluble fiber.Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel like material, and includes plant pectin and gums, it can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium. As soluble fiber dissolves, it creates a gel that may improve digestion in a number of ways. Soluble fiber may reduce blood cholesterol and sugar. It helps your body improve blood glucose control, which can aid in reducing your risk for diabetes and heart disease .
2. Insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables, such as cauliflower, green beans and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber attracts water into your stool, making it softer and easier to pass with less strain on your bowel. Insoluble fiber can help promote bowel health and regularity. It also supports insulin sensitivity, and, like soluble fiber, may help reduce your risk for diabetes
Benefits of high fiber diet:
1. Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to stool.
2. Fiber helps speed up the elimination of toxic waste through the colon.Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol levels. Studies also have shown that high-fiber foods may have other heart-health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and inflammation.
3. In people with diabetes, fiber particularly soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
4. A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and and many illnesses of colon like diverticular disease. Studies have also found that a high-fiber diet likely lowers the risk of colorectal cancer.
5. High-fiber foods tend to be more filling than low-fiber foods, so you are likely to eat less and stay satisfied longer. And high-fiber foods tend to take longer to eat and to be less "energy dense," which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food. Thus, high fiber diet may also help lose weight .
Good sources of soluble fiber include:
• Oats
• Peas
• Beans
• Apples
• Bananas
• Peach
• Pear
• Plums
• Apricots
• Citrus fruit
• Carrots
• Barley
• Sweet potatoes
• Broccoli
• Figs
• Guavas
• Seeds like flax seeds and sunflower seeds
• Psyllium/ Ispaghol
Good sources of insoluble fiber include:
• Whole-wheat flour
• Wheat bran
• Nuts
• Green leafy vegetables
• Cucumbers
• Carrots
• Beans
• Cauliflower
• Green beans
• Potatoes
So, if you are not getting enough fiber each day, you may need to boost your intake of high fiber foods. Good choices include: Whole-grain products, Fruits, Vegetables, Beans, Nuts, seeds, Dried fruits, Lentils, Peas and other Legumes. Please also note that the grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain leading to low the fiber content, thus refined and processed foods like white bread and pastas, nonwhole grain cereals and deserts, canned fruits and vegetables are foods with low in fiber.

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