A whole meal is one which has all the required components in appropriate amount for our body. And it is a well-known fact that the lack on any one nutrient/vitamin/mineral from our diet for a long period of time, causes its deficiency in the body. This leads to further health implications and complications. Each nutrient plays a vital role in our healthy functioning, be it protein, carbs, fats, sugar, or fiber.
Today, let’s talk about Fiber – an important and much needed nutrient we were all taught about in school but have somehow forgotten as we focused more on the others.
What is Fiber?
Fibre is the indigestible parts of plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, beans and legumes. It is type of a carbohydrate that helps keep our digestive systems healthy.
In other words, dietary fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate found in foods.
It’s split into two broad categories based on its water solubility:
- Soluble fiber: Dissolves in water and can be metabolized by the “good” bacteria in the gut. It slows the whole digestion process in our stomachs, which helps you feel fuller and eat lesser. It also helps to lower cholesterol and stabilise your blood glucose levels. Soluble fibre is found in fruits, vegetables, oats, barley and legumes.
- Insoluble fiber: Does not dissolve in water. It, in fact, absorbs water to help to soften the contents of our bowels and support regular bowel movements. It also helps to keep us full and keep the bowel environment healthy.Insoluble fibre is found in whole grain breads and cereals, nuts, seeds, wheat bran and the skin of fruit and vegetables.
Why is Fiber SO Important?
- Healthy Gut Bacteria
The good bacteria in our gut feed off fiber. They are responsible for producing nutrients in body, which fuel the rest of the good bacteria in the body to function. Most nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream before they make it to the large intestine, leaving little for the gut flora. This is where fiber comes in. Human cells don’t have the enzymes to digest fiber, so it reaches the large intestine relatively unchanged. The gut bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids that have a host of benefits—including reduced gut inflammation and improvements in digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- Help in Weight loss
Some types of soluble fiber can help you lose weight by curbing or reducing your appetite and hunger pangs. The weight loss happens automatically by the calorie deficit (reduced calorie intake). Fiber-rich foods not only fill you up faster and keep you satisfied longer, they also prevent your body from absorbing some of the calories in the foods you eat.
- Can control rise in sugar level after High-Carb consumption
Foods that contain viscous fiber have a lower glycemic index (GI) and cause smaller spikes in blood sugar than foods that are low in fiber. However, scientists believe only high-viscosity, soluble fibers have this property. This is important, especially if you’re following a high-carb diet. In this case, the fiber can reduce the likelihood of the carbs raising your blood sugar to harmful levels.
- Minimize Type 2 Diabetes Risk
A recent analysis of 19 studies found that people who ate the most fiber—more than 26 grams a day—lowered their odds of the disease by 18 percent, compared to those who consumed the least (less than 19 grams daily). It is believed it could be because of fiber’s ability of keeping blood sugar levels steady and keeping you at a healthy weight, that may help stave off the development of diabetes.
- Healthy Heart
A study found that for every 7 grams of fiber eaten daily, your risk of heart disease drops by 9 percent. That’s partly due to fiber’s ability to sop up excess cholesterol in your system and ferry it out before it can clog your arteries.
- Can help keep Cholesterol in check
Though not by a very significant amount, but fiber does help in reducing cholesterol as well. A review of 67 controlled studies found that consuming 2–10 grams of soluble fiber per day reduced total cholesterol by only 1.7 mg/dl and LDL cholesterol by 2.2 mg/dl, on an average.
- Healthy Bowel Movement
The laxative effects of fiber are well known. They are natural and do not cause disruptive bowel movements, like the allopathic medicines. When consumed over a period of time, you gave softer and healthier bowel movement every day and keeps your gut clean. This leads to improvement in mood and also skin health.
- Natural Complete Body Detox
Soluble fiber soaks up potentially harmful compounds, such as excess estrogens and unhealthy fats, before they can be absorbed by the body. Because insoluble fiber makes things move along more quickly, it limits the amount of time that chemicals like BPA, mercury and pesticides stay in your system. The faster they go through you, the less chance they have to cause harm.
How much Fiber to Consume?
The following is the recommended amount of consumption of fiber per day –
|Gender (over 18 years)||Acceptable intake|
|Males||30g per day|
|Females||25g per day|
Are There Any Side Effects One Should Be Aware of?
- Too much fiber in the diet can cause bloating, gas, and constipation. A person can relieve this discomfort by increasing their fluid intake, exercising, and making dietary changes. These uncomfortable side effects of excessive fiber can occur when someone eats more than 70 grams (g) of fiber a day.
- When the bacteria ferment the fiber, they also produce gases. This is the reason high-fiber diets can cause flatulence and stomach discomfort in some people. These side effects usually go away with time as your body adjusts.
How to Best Consume Fiber?
|Wholemeal pasta||1 cup||7.9g|
|Carrot (skin on)||1 cup||6.9g|
|Corn||1 medium cob||5.9g|
|Rolled oats||1/2 cup||4.5g|
|Wholemeal biscuit||2 biscuits||4.2g|
|Broccoli (skin on)||1 cup||3.8g|
|Sweet potato (skin on)||1 cup||3.7g|
|Brown rice||1 cup||2.7g|
|Almond||30g (25 almonds)||2.6g|
|Dried apricot||30g (5 dried apricots)||2.5g|
|Wholegrain bread||1 slice||2.4g|
|Psyllium husk||1 tablespoon||2.2g|
|Popcorn (air popped)||1 cup||1.2g|
You can also include –
- Chia Seeds and Flax Seeds
- Green Beans
- Root Vegetables such as tubers, onions
When is it Best to Consume Fiber?
I personally recommend having a power-packed, high-fiber BREAKFAST. Fiber is the smart way to fuel up for your day. It’s how I start my mine. High-fiber foods, like whole grains, fruits, veggies and legumes, fill you up longer and control your blood sugar levels, so there is no spike, and there are no random hunger pangs. You can have a controlled appetite throughout the day.
Also, including a little fiber in your dinner would also help as it would help you regulate your bowel movements the next morning.
I hope this article elucidates the importance of Fiber in your diet and you consciously make an effort to include this underrated hero of a nutrient. If there are any other doubts or queries you’d like to discuss, drop a comment below and I would be happy to help you out.