Apart from three main component of food which are Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins, there is one more which is not talked about much but equally important. That component is fiber. Dietary fiber is found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and leguminous plant. A leguminous plant is a plant that produces pods or seeds such as peas or beans. Dietary fiber is also called roughage or bulk, which means that the plant food can not be digested or absorbed by the body.
The types of food that can be broke down and absorbed by the body are fats, proteins or carbohydrates. Dietary fiber can not be broken down by the body, instead it moves completely through and out the body whole. Since they cannot be broken down and pass through the body, they play an important role in cleaning and removing toxins and keeping us healthy.
Function of Dietary Fiber
Since soluble and insoluble fibers are different from each other they each have a different effect. Soluble fiber dissolves and attracts water, which begins to form a gel like substance that slows the digestion down. Soluble fiber slows the emptying of the stomach giving the individual a feel of being full. Soluble fibers can affect the blood glucose level by lowering them, which can help control diabetes. Soluble fibers are also known to help lowering cholesterol.
You can find soluble fiber in foods such as oatmeal, lentils, strawberries, nuts, Flaxseeds, Psyllium, Cucumbers and Celery. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, which gives your stool bulk and promotes movement of material waste through the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber is great for individuals who suffer with constipation or irregular stools. Insoluble fiber acts as a natural gentle laxative and adds healthy bulk to the diet. Insoluble fibers can be found in founds such as whole grains, raisins, grapes, fruit, dark leafy vegetables, cabbage, onions, tomatoes and other vegetables.
Importance of Dietary Fiber and Recommended Daily Intake
The daily recommendations for women who are the age of 50 or younger need to consume 25 grams of fiber and women who are 51 or older need to consume 21 grams fiber. The daily recommendations for men age 50 or younger need to consume 38 grams of fiber and men age 51 or older need to consume 30 grams of fiber. One of the rule of thumb recommended by US Department of Agriculture is to consume 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories consumed.
There is no need to be concerned about what kind of fiber you intake unless you are seeking a certain health benefit. Just focus on adding healthy fiber rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Having a high fiber diet can bring many health benefits. It can help manage weight, improves digest tract health and help prevent some types of Cancers.
In case your dietary fiber is not sufficient you can go for fiber supplements such as Metamucil or Benefiber which are sold in many forms.