Dietary Fiber: Why You Need It
Written by: Brandi Monasco
“Finish your vegetables?”
We all have had that said to us on numerous occasions!
But why are we urged to do so? What is the big deal?
The answer is FIBER!
Dietary fiber, also called roughage, is one of the seven major nutrient groups essential for the human body. Basically, it is an indigestible part of plant food, which primarily consists of cellulose (the material that cell walls are made up of), hemicellulose, pectins and certain other substances. The group is split into two categories, each having their own characteristics and uses.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is converted into a gel-like liquid that helps decrease blood cholesterol, whereas insoluble fiber does not change its form and plays its role in promoting regular bowel habits.
Why do you need fiber?
There are many reasons why you should increase your consumption of fiber. The main reason is that fiber helps you have regular bowel movements. It adds bulk to your digestive contents, helping to make defecation easy. Without a certain amount of fiber in your diet, you could potentially end up experiencing constipation, hemorrhoids and in some severe cases, diverticulitis.
Besides this, insoluble fiber also helps maintain an optimal intestinal pH, preventing the production of harmful bacteria. The antioxidants that fiber contains also help in protecting your body against serious conditions such as colon cancer.
If this was not enough reason for you to rethink your fiber intake, here is an added bonus: dietary fibers also reduce weight.
With fiber being low in calories, but still being hunger-satisfying, you can eat your fill without the guilt. Only a small portion of any fat that you eat is absorbed rather than the full amount. Not only this, but it also reduces blood cholesterol levels, converting “bad fat” into “good fat.” This helps decrease the risk of heart disease.
How do you increase your fiber intake?
According to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the recommended daily intake of fiber is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. However, you should also make sure that you are eating both types of fiber rather than just one or the other.
One of the major ways to a higher fiber intake is to eat more lentils/beans. These really are one of the richest sources of fiber along with proteins, vitamins and minerals.
Other nutritional sources include fruits such as berries, apples, bananas and citrus fruits. Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and nuts are also good sources. Incorporating this amount of fiber in your diet requires deliberate work over many months.
An important thing to remember is that you need to become familiar with the nutritional content of foods. Plan ahead for shopping and make it a habit to read the dietary content labels on the packaging. The process can take up to six months or more to master, but at the end of it all your body will thank you for all its worth.
Source, Source, Source, Source
Source:Kritchevsky, D., Bonfield, C. T., & Anderson, J. (n.d.). Dietary Fiber: Chemistry, Physiology And Health Effects.
Brandi Monasco is a freelance writer, graphic designer and social media manager from Texas. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts and has recently found a new love for health and nutrition.
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