You may wonder why should we eat fiber-rich food. This article will discuss all the fiber required by our body. We will discuss the consequences of not fulfilling the daily fiber need of the body. For this first, you have to understand what fiber is and its importance.
What is Fiber?
Fiber is a plant-based nutrient, that is a polymer of carbohydrates. unlike other nutrients, vitamins, and carbohydrates, our bodies can't digest fiber. This is because our bodies do not have the required enzymes.
It passes through the digestive system. It helps the system in functions like:
- peristalsis (contraction and relaxation of walls of the digestive tract)
- controlling the absorption in the digestive tract
- providing support to the cells wall of the digestive tract (especially the cell wall of the large intestine)
- cholesterol and blood sugar control and many more
Types Of Fiber
- It is also known as soft fibers.
- Soluble fibers are those that combine with water and form a gel-like substance. It includes pectin, gums, and mucilage found in plant cells.
- One must drink enough water to maintain the proper functioning of soluble fibers.
- The soluble fiber attaches itself to the bacteria of the intestinal wall. this will help to control the absorption.
- To ensure the healthy growth of these bacteria, soluble fiber attaches itself to them.
- To make sure that the absorption of the waste happens it controls the bowel moment.
- Sources: Some sources of soluble fibers are oatmeals, barley, legumes, soy products, vegetables (like peas, sweet potato, carrot, etc.), and fruits (like apples, bananas, oranges, etc.)
- It is also known as roughage.
- It includes carbohydrates such as cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignin found in the cell wall of plants.
- They do not combine with water and provide bulk to stool for easy excretion.
- Insoluble fiber aid the bowel moment for easy moment and excretion of waste from the body.
- Whole grains food such as whole grain bread, pasta, rice, and cereal.
- the skin of the fruits such as apples.
- Barn, nuts, and seeds
You should drink enough water throughout the day so that the fibers can function well and have no adverse effects. Balance of these 2 types of fiber is important for proper effects and function of it in the body.
Benefits Of Fiber To Your Body
Even though fiber is not digested by your body, it plays the most significant role in your digestive system which is essential for many reasons as mentioned below:
This is a feeling of fullness, that can be caused by reducing the digestion speed, so the required nutrients can be absorbed and release satiety hormones. This feeling of fullness reduces calorie consumption which can be helpful to avoid obesity. This is very helpful when you want to focus on weight loss.
Helps In Controlling Blood Sugar Levels
The soluble fiber controls glucose absorption, reducing the sugar in the bloodstream. It controls insulin signaling, restraining the spike in the sugar level of the blood.
Lower Cholesterol Level
It reduces fat accumulation and reduces cholesterol in the blood leading to a healthy body and heart.
Helping The Digestive System
Fiber provides bulk to stool resulting in easy excretion of waste material out of the body. This can be useful to avoid constipation. Fiber provides the pre-biotics required by the body for proper digestion.
Improves Immune System
Fibers feed the intestinal bacteria of your digestive system responsible for the absorption of necessary nutrients and vitamins for various functions of the body. Any problem in this bacterial structure can have serious health complications. Thus, it is important to make sure that the bacteria functions fully well.
Protects From Many Decease And Health Conditions
You may wonder how can problems in the digestive tract due to lack of fiber cause problems in your whole body. The answer is very simple your whole body depends on your food intake for the consumption of necessary nutrients and compounds, thus healthy digestive system means a healthy body.
Fiber is very important for the bacteria of the intestine, adequate intake of fiber can help you avoid colon cancer, constipation, hemorrhoids, and much more harmful, fatal decease.
Fiber Intake Per Day
Fiber is very important for the proper and healthy functioning of the digestive system which is essential for the proper functioning of other parts of the body, thus it is extremely important to involve fiber in your diet such that you meet a certain level of fiber intake necessary for the body.
As per Food and Drug Association (FDA), an individual must have a fiber intake of 25-28 grams per day. The daily fiber intake depends on many factors such as age or sex. As per the Consumer reports,
- Aged 19-30 need 28-gram of fiber
- Aged 31-50 need 25-gram of fiber
- Above 50 need 22-gram of fiber
- Aged 19-30 need 34-gram of fiber
- Agde 31-50 need 31-gram of fiber
- Above 50 need 28-gram of fiber
Sources of Fiber
When you want to increase your fiber intake you might be tempted to use canned fruits, vegetables, and beans. You might want to have a quick easy way of using canned pulp-free juice, refines wheat, and products made from refined pulses or beans. But you should avoid this all as they are of no benefit as they have been acquired after the fiber has been stripped off of them. All of them have very less or sometimes no fibers.
You should choose products that are full of fiber and can be induced into your diet. Let's see some of the options:
Fresh Fruits And Vegetables
There honestly is no substitute for fruits and vegetables in your diet. They are not only good sources of fiber but also very rich sources of other nutrients and vitamins.
Fruits such as apples, bananas, pears, berries, and many more are considered to be very good sources of fiber. Also, fruits can be easily involved in your diet, such as eating them as it is, making fresh juice, and including them with other breakfast option such as cereal or oatmeal. Vegetables can be easily found and cooked. It can be included in your diet by making salads, including other dishes, making a tasty dish out of it, etc.
Whole Grains Products
You can choose products that are made from whole grain, instead of any refined flour. There are plenty of options readily available in the market such as whole grain cereal, pasta, bread, cookies, and bakery products.
Legumes in simple words are the pulses such as beans, lentils, peanuts, soybeans, and many more. They are a rich source of fiber. They can be easily infused into your daily diet. For example, you can make the beans (not the canned and processed ones), make a paste or spread out of the legumes, add it to your soups, and salads, and add as toppings as and when possible.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are some of the easiest sources of fiber and these can be used in many ways to make your diet more interesting and healthy. This includes chia seeds, flex seeds, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, walnut, hazelnuts, and many more. You can consume them directly as snacks or include them in smoothies, and toppings or make energy bars out of them.
Oats are the seeds of certain cereal grains that are a good source of nutrients and fiber. One can include oats in the diet in many ways such as eating soaked oats with the topping of fruits, nuts, and seeds of their choice, adding them to their smoothies, energy bars, and even bakery items.
Rice in some countries is an important part of the diet. White rice may not be the healthiest but we do have many fiber-rich alternatives like brown rice, quinoa, black rice, and more.
What Happens When The Excessive Fiber Is Present In The Body?
Excess of nothing is good. The same can be said for fibers. Let's understand it based on the different types of fibers.
Soluble fibers are primarily responsible for absorption and control the absorption.
If the soluble fibers are more than the water consumption to counter the soluble fiber is less, the bowel moment of the digestive system slows down. This will result in an increased time of waste in the intestine for absorption of the excessive water. This will result in the absorption of water and toxins from the stool, which results in the hardening of stool and that makes the excretion extremely difficult resulting in constipation. A severe case of this can result in intestinal blockages.
Insoluble fibers are primarily responsible for the bowel moment, meaning the moment of the walls of the digestive system. If the insoluble fibers are in excess then the bowel moment will be accelerated. This will lead to less time for the absorption of nutrients, vitamins, and excessive water from the food. This will result in weakness as the necessary nutrients and vitamins are not getting absorbed and also diarrhea. When the fibers are excess in the digestive tract they may produce gases that can lead to bloating and pain.
How Does Our Body Process Dietary Fiber?
As said earlier fiber is a plant-based nutrient that is not digested by our body. Then how does our body depend on fibers to carry on important functions such as digestion and excretion?
The answer to that question is very simple. It uses bacteria (mainly the gut microbiota) to break the fiber down into short-chain fatty acids (acetate, propionate, and butyrate). This process of breaking the fiber into small chain fatty acids using the bacteria is called 'microbial fermentation'. This fatty acid helps in bowel movement and the absorption of vital nutrients and water. These fatty acids attach to the walls of the intestine to promote the release of satiety hormones to trigger satiety.
Importance Of Fibers For Blood Sugar Level
There is a spike in blood sugar levels after we eat, insulin is responsible for countering this spike. It may happen due to any reason such as type 2 diabetes or any other reasons. Fiber may help in reducing this insulin resistance and regulate the amount of glucose that is been absorbed by the body and diffused in the blood.
Thus, the inclusion of fiber in the diet becomes extremely important for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. It can not only help them manage their sugar levels but also help them to manage the calories and food they intake.
Fibers And Cholesterol Control
Let's first understand why is cholesterol needed in our body. Cholesterol is needed by the liver for the production of bile, which is essential in the digestive process. When the digestion is complete the body may absorb this cholesterol in the bile that was used for digestion along with the cholesterol that was present in the food you had consumed. This may lead to an increased level of cholesterol.
Thus, to control the level of cholesterol in the body, fiber controls the amount of cholesterol absorbed and transferred to the bloodstream.
Fibers And Weight Loss
For those who want to focus on weight loss, fiber intake is extremely important.
Lipids and fat from the food are absorbed, which when not consumed or burned by using it for energy is stored in the cell in the form of fat. Fiber when in the intestine where the major absorption takes place, makes sure that all the unnecessary fat and other lipid substance are excreted and the new lipid synthesis is under control.
If you are focusing on reducing your weight, you need to focus on your fiber intake as it can help you massively with calorie control and fat storage. Fibers are responsible for releasing satiety hormone, which gives the feeling of fullness leading to fewer calories consumed. Calories consumption has an important effect on your weight loss journey.
How Do You Know That You Have Low Fiber In Your Body?
As we know that fiber is an extremely important part of our digestive system and essential for a healthy body. Certain symptoms can be observed when your body doesn't receive the required amount of fiber.
Fiber provides the bulk to the stool so that it can be excreted out of the body easily, it also is responsible for the bowl moments of the intestinal walls. Balance of both insoluble and soluble fiber is required so that absorption of excess water from the water is just right and not in more than needed (causing constipation) or too little (causing diarrhea).
Fatigue and Hunger Increase
Fiber is responsible for absorbing the required nutrients and vitamins from the food we eat to gain energy. If the fiber is low, this process of absorption faces problems and hindrances leading to fatigue and other problems in the body. Fiber increases the peristalsis, lack of fiber may increase the digestion speed, and reduce the release of the satiety hormones, leading to frequent hunger triggers.
Fiber, soluble fiber to be specific, are responsible for the control of fat absorption. Fat in some amount is necessary for the body as they act as a carrier for certain components (such as cholesterol, and fatty acids), which can't travel on their own in the blood. This fat is stored in the blood cells, and used as and when required. Access absorption of this fat can lead to excess storage of the fat leading to obesity. To avoid these make sure your fat consumption and utilization rate are balanced.
Increase In Blood Sugar Level
Fiber controls the absorption of glucose and reduces insulin resistance responsible to counter the blood sugar rise after we eat. Lack of fiber may affect both of these processes.
Disorders Caused By Lack Of Fiber
Fiber is a vital part of the digestive system, a lack of fiber in your diet in the long-term can cause severe issues and can affect your daily functioning of the body.
Fiber is important to maintain muscle tone, which is the tension in muscles in the relaxed state of muscles to generate reflex, contribute to the functioning of an organ, and maintain posture and balance of internal organs as well. Lack of fiber can cause the formation of small pouches or pockets called diverticula happens on the walls of the digestive tract. This mostly happens in the colon area. This mostly happens in older people.
Hemorrhoids or piles is a condition where the vines around the end of your digestive tract (rectum and anus) enlarge or swell.
There are 3 types of hemorrhoids, namely external (swelling of the skin around the anus), internal (swelling of walls inside the rectum), or prolapsed (both internal and external swelling). Among these types, the external and prolapsed hemorrhoids are most likely to hurt more. Some symptoms of hemorrhoids can be excessive pain while excreting, blood in the stool, etc.
Type 2 Diabetes
Fiber reduces insulin resistance, thus maintaining a good blood sugar level. Lack of fiber can cause resistance to insulin resulting in a spike in blood sugar levels and inviting unwanted problems to the body and bodily functions.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
It is an umbrella term for inflammation in any part of the digestive tract. This inflammation can disrupt the flow of functions in the digestive tract and cause severe pain and sometimes this can be fatal. IBD includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Some symptoms of IBD are pain in the affected part of the digestive system, bloating, bleeding in stool, anemia, and diarrhea.
If the cholesterol in the blood is in excess amount, it will result in the thickening of the veins and artery walls. In severe cases, this may lead to blockage of the nerves. All of these put pressure on the heart to pump more blood and with pressure to maintain bodily functions. This condition when prolonged can be very fatal.
Low fiber levels can increase the risk of cancer in the intestine as these cells depend on fiber for their life.
Fiber is a plant-based carbohydrate necessary for the proper function of the digestive process. Fiber can't be digested by the human body as essential enzymes are not present in the body. But, fiber can be converted into small fatty acids that are responsible for many important tasks such as controlling the absorption of certain compounds required by the body, reducing insulin resistance, maintaining good bowel moment, maintaining the health of the bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, providing bulk to the waste for easy excretion. It is important to our body as it can be vital for maintaining a good immune system, fat accumulation, maintaining blood sugar levels, and many more.
On average an individual should consume 25-30 grams of fiber per day to maintain a healthy body. The balance of soluble and insoluble fiber indicated a healthy fiber consumption. There are many healthy and tasty fiber-rich food that you can easily involve in your diet to make it simple. These food items range from fruits and vegetables to pulses and barn items. A proper balance between soluble and insoluble fiber is important. An imbalance between these 2 can cause issues in the body.
Lack of fiber in the diet gives rise to many health issues as digestion is one of the most important functions to maintain a healthy body. The most common disease is constipation, diarrhea, cholesterol problems, obesity, and the sugar level of blood. There are many more problems such as ulcers in the digestive tract, bowel movement disorders, etc.
Thus, to avoid such complications you must make sure to meet your daily fiber intake level and maintain a healthy diet.
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- Nutrient source: fiber by Harvard
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