While you probably understand what carbohydrates, fat, and proteins are and what role they play in good health, you may not necessarily understand what fiber is. Fiber is often touted as being important in the treatment and prevention of a variety of conditions. So does that mean that the more fiber consumed, the better your health will be? Not necessarily. This article will explain what fiber is, its importance in your diet, and how much you should consume for optimal health.
Fiber is a nutrient that is insoluble--that means that the body can't digest it properly, and therefore it passes through the digestive system relatively in tact. Fiber is found in high quantities in fruits and vegetables, especially the skins. Recent research has found that apples, for example, have more fiber in the skin of the fruit than in the actual "meat" of the fruit, itself. Fiber is also found in high quantities in whole grain bread, pasta, cereal, and even some processed items like chips. Unlike carbohydrate, fats, and protein, since fiber cannot be digested, it does not provide any calories to the body upon consumption.
Fiber and Dieting
Fiber is often talked about a lot in regards to dieting. The reason behind this is because fiber takes a long time to leave the stomach and enter the digestive system, helping to keep you feeling fuller for a longer period of time. This is great if you are dieting because it means that eating fiber will help prevent you from feeling hunger, and furthermore will prevent binging and overeating at future meals. When fiber is broken down, it becomes relatively "bulky." As it moves through the digestive system, fiber binds water and other toxins that can lead to the development of certain cancers such as colon cancer. Thus, fiber is often touted as one of the most important nutrients in the treatment and prevention of specific cancers.
Is More Fiber Better?
Obviously, fiber has numerous important health benefits if you are on a diet, but it's also helpful to consume if you are simply concerned about the overall maintenance of your health. But does that mean that the more fiber you get, the better? As stated above, while it moves through the digestive system, fiber binds with water, and then aids in its excretion. The more fiber that is consumed, the more water will be bound, and excreted. Therefore, excessive amounts of fiber consumption can be toxic in that it can lead to the development of dehydration. While this may not seem like a critical health problem, during times of extreme heat, dehydration can be life threatening.
Over Consumption of Fiber
If you are experiencing diarrhea or other similar symptoms, you may be consuming too much fiber. Consider limiting your intake of fruits, vegetables, or whole grain products until your bowel movements return to normal.