Found in many foods, dietary fiber is a form of carbohydrate referred to in the past as “roughage”. Even though low in nutrients, this very important dietary fiber is the plant part resistant to our body’s digestive enzymes. Actually very little of fiber is actually digested. Instead the bulk of it moves through the stomach and intestine stimulating intestinal peristalsis. Absorbing water in our intestines, fiber increases the bulk of stools and causes them to move quickly through the colon. The seven basic classifications of fiber each with their own unique function are:
Dietary fiber is classified as:
Insoluble fiber has passive water-attracting properties. Examples of insoluble fiber include corn bran, flax seed, whole wheat, and vegetables such as celery, prune skins, and potato skins. An example of soluble fiber is the inside pulp of prunes.
Even though most fiber is not digested, several important benefits are obtained. In view of the fact fiber retains water, bulkier stools prevent constipation and hemorrhoids. Thus, a higher fiber intake reduces colon cancer risk. Moreover binding with materials, which would result in cholesterol production, these substances are instead eliminated. Thus, a higher dietary fiber helps lower blood cholesterol levels, thereby reducing heart disease risk. In addition it stabilizes blood sugar levels. Yet another additional benefit is fiber is reputed to remove certain toxic metals from our bodies.
A recent study in Journal of Nutrition found more fiber intake not only keeps you from gaining weight but also keeps you from gaining fat tissue. Every extra gram of dietary fiber rendered less body weight and reduced body fat percentage. This study found women regardless of activity level, age and so on, who consumed more fiber weighed less than people who consumed less fiber.
Unfortunately due to the refining process most of the natural fiber has been removed from our foods thus the typical American diet is deficient in fiber. However, intake of excessive amounts of fiber supplements will interfere with absorption of certain minerals. A better choices is to increase intake of high fiber food:
The American Dietetic Association recommends the average healthy adult should have between 20-35 grams per day of fiber. Unfortunately, the average Americans intake of dietary fiber is only 12-18 grams. Daily consumption of several different high fiber foods can change this. Complex carbohydrates are also excellent sources of fiber. When eating organic produce, leave on the skin of apples and potatoes. Baked chicken can be coated with bran or oats. In closing, dietary fiber manages weight, avoids disease, and eases chronic conditions symptoms.
© Debby Bolen RN