Fiber is one of the most important nutrients for the human body and is contained in plant-based foods. It is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested or absorbed by the human body for energy. Therefore, it passes through the small intestine without being degraded and undergoes some type of process in the large intestine by the existing gut microflora. A food is considered rich in fiber when it contains more than 6 grams of fiber per 100 grams of food product. Our needs in fiber depend on our age; adults more specifically need 30 grams of fiber per day.
Fiber is one of the most important nutrients for the human body and is contained in plant-based foods.
There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber. Most foods contain both types of fiber.
However, some of them are higher in one of the two types of fiber.
For example, foods high in soluble fiber are the interior of fruits and vegetables (starchy and non-starchy), legumes and oats, while foods high in insoluble fiber are cereals, pasta and whole wheat bread, as well as the skin of fruits and vegetables.
What are the benefits from the consumption of dietary fiber?
The benefits from the consumption of soluble fiber are the following:
- It may help to reduce blood cholesterol levels, blood pressure levels, thus protecting against cardiovascular diseases.
- It may help in regulating blood glucose levels, thus preventing or treating diabetes.
- It helps relieve diarrhea.
The benefits from the consumption of insoluble fiber are the following:
- It may help to prevent diseases of the large intestine, such as colon cancer and diverticulosis.
- It may help to prevent constipation.
- It contributes to a healthy gastrointestinal system through the increase of the rate at which waste products are removed from the body.
How can you boost your daily diet with fiber?
- Incorporate fiber at every meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks)
- Replace refined and “white” cereal, pasta and bread with their whole-wheat equivalents.
- If you make your own bread, use whole wheat flour instead of the white one.
- Aim to consume at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
- Consume fruits and vegetables with their skins.
- Add vegetables sauces and soups in your meals.
- Prepare fruit smoothies to quench your thirst.
- Eat as snacks whole fresh or dried fruits.
- Aim to consume pulses on a weekly basis
Keep in mind, that you need to increase your fiber intake gradually to avoid gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating and pain. Remember also to drink plenty of fluids at regular intervals during the day (8-10 cups per day).