Dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate in most plant food products that your gut cannot digest or absorb because we lack the digestive enzymes that can break it down in our gastrointestinal tract . it includes polysaccharides , oligosaccharides and lignins. It was thought that if it didn’t get digested it produced no energy and was of no importance but it was found that it gets fermented in your large intestine by your guts bacteria to produce short chain fatty acids , gases and energy.
There are many types of dietary fiber so it was classified according to its form in the large intestine into soluble and insoluble fibers.
- Soluble fibers : this type of fiber dissolves in water forming a gel like viscid substance that stays in your gut for a long time slowing down digestion. it is also the type that the gut bacteria utilize to feed on and ferment into gas and short chain fatty acids by that it increases the population of the healthy gut bacteria that aids your food digestion and absorption and makes your immune system stronger . Examples of this type are psyllium beta glucan and pectin .
- Insoluble fibers : this type doesn’t dissolve in water instead it forms what is known as a bulk that helps your gut motility increase and enhances regular bowel movements. Examples of this type are cellulose , hemicellulose and lignin.
Importance of dietary fiber:
- Constipation treatment: many people suffer from constipation due to the lack of sufficient amounts of fiber in their diet and that leads to accumulation of toxins inside the body which is known to be linked to intestinal oncogenes activation and it causes discomfort and pain ,so insoluble fiber aids in forming stool bulk that is easier to pass. it also helps in solidifying watery loose stools by absorbing the water content and forming a bulk.
- Lower cholesterol levels : consuming fiber regularly reduces your levels of cholesterol and low density lipoproteins (LDL) by that it lowers the risk of developing atherosclerosis, hypertension and ischemic heart disease.
- Helps control your blood sugar levels: people who have diabetes should benefit greatly from adding more fiber to their diet as it has a low glycemic index that means it causes a slow rise in postprandial blood glucose levels by that it lowers the amount of insulin required to metabolize that glucose sparing the pancreatic reserve . It also increases insulin sensitivity in glucose utilizing tissues like skeletal muscles and liver by producing a substance called glucose dependent insulin tropic polypeptide (GIP) that increases insulin levels and decreases appetite and induces early satiety by that it helps reduce the risk of getting metabolic syndrome and enhances diabetes control
- Helps you lose weight: one of the most known fiber supplements glucomannan is used widely as it helps increase satiety and curb your appetite resulting in lower caloric intake. it also forms a bulk in your large intestine that slows down digestion and absorption of nutrients.
- Lowers your risk of getting colon cancer: by improving your bowel motion and regularity that decreases the toxin load in your system and scavengers free radicals and lowers its resultant oxidative damage and oncogenes activation .
- Lowers your risk of getting breast cancer: young females who consume more fruits and vegetables from an early age are known to have a lower risk of getting breast cancer .
- Improves symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease ,diverticular disease and hemorrhoids: by combating constipation it leads to less impaction and infection rates.
- Enhances the population of gut friendly bacteria that make your digestion better and your immunity stronger.
Daily recommendations for dietary fibers:
- Males under 50 years old 38 grams /day.
- Males over 50 years old : 30 grams /day.
- Females under 50 years old: 25 grams /day .
- Females over 50 years old :21 grams/day.
In order to achieve this recommended daily intake and get all those benefits you must add changes to your diet by adding more fiber filled foods but it is important to add that increasing fiber content gradually over the course of a couple of days in order to avoid adverse effects like bloating and make sure to consume higher amounts of water in order to get its benefits with fewer side effects .
Some of the greatest food sources of fiber are
1. Whole wheat flour
It was claimed by some people that eating grains is bad for you, but that is the case only with refined grains that increase the risk of obesity and inflammatory reactions but whole grains that contain the bran ,endosperm and germ layers are full of amazing content of fiber , minerals and antioxidants .
100 grams of whole grain wheat provides you with 10.7 grams of fiber the main fiber is arabinoxylan which is a type of hemicellulose that is an insoluble type of fiber. it is also full of manganese and phosphorus and ferulic acid and phytic acid and lignans which are great antioxidants and many more but it is best to consume it in moderation as of course it is high in carbs which is not ideal if you’re on a diet and to avoid it completely if you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease as gluten is the main protein constituent.
always remember to avoid refined wheat and buy the whole grain variety of breads and pastas.