What is the dietary fiber?
Dietary fiber, also known as whole grains or bulk fibrous material, includes the portion of plant foods that cannot be digested or absorbed by the body. Unlike other food components such as fat, protein or carbohydrates that the body can break down and absorb, fiber is not digested by the body. It passes relatively intact through the stomach, small intestine and colon before leaving the body.
Fiber is generally divided into water-soluble soluble fiber and water-insoluble insoluble fiber:
- Soluble fiber. The fibers dissolve in water to form a gel-like substance. It can help lower cholesterol and glucose levels in the blood. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, and psyllium.
- Insoluble fiber. This fiber promotes the movement of substances through the digestive system and increases stool volume, so it is good for people with constipation or irregular bowel movements. Whole-wheat flour, bran, nuts, beans, and vegetables, such as broccoli, green beans, and potatoes, are good sources of insoluble fiber.
The amount of soluble and insoluble fiber in different plant foods varies. For maximum health benefits, eat a variety of high-fiber foods.
Benefits of a High Fiber Diet
- Normalize bowel movements. Dietary fiber adds weight and size to your stool and softens it. Larger stools are easier to pass, reducing the chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may help solidify the stool because it absorbs water and thus adds bulk.
- Helps maintain gut health. A high-fiber diet can reduce the risk of hemorrhoids and small pouches in the colon (diverticulitis). Studies have also found that a high-fiber diet may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Certain fibers are fermented in the colon. Researchers are studying how this might play a role in preventing colon disease.
- Lower cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber in beans, oats, flaxseed, and oat bran can help lower total cholesterol levels in the blood by lowering LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels. Research also suggests that high-fiber foods may have other heart health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and inflammation.
- Helps control blood sugar levels. In people with diabetes, fiber (especially soluble fiber) can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber can also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Helps implement a healthy weight. High-fiber foods tend to be more filling than low-fiber foods, so you may eat less but stay satisfied longer. High-fiber foods tend to take longer to eat and are less “energy dense,” meaning fewer calories for the same volume of food.
- Help you live longer. Studies have shown that increasing dietary fiber intake, especially from grains, can reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and all cancers.