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What Is Dietary Fiber?

Dietary fiber is categorized based on water solubility. Soluble fiber is fermented by the bacteria in your colon and turned into gases and metabolic byproducts. Insoluble fiber extracts water into your food bolus during the digestive process and is not fermented.

Importance of Fiber

Having enough dietary fiber is an important aspect of healthy living.

  • Appetite control: both soluble and insoluble fiber add bulk to your food so you feel fuller and are less likely to overeat.
  • Stabilize blood sugar level: soluble fiber attracts water during digestion and become gelatinous. This traps the sugar molecules so your body is less responsive to the sudden rise of sugar levels after a meal, and in turn, slows down the absorption of glucose. This ability to control blood sugar levels makes soluble fiber particularly beneficial for diabetics.
  • Lowers cholesterol level: soluble fiber has been proven to help reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis. During digestion, soluble fiber binds to bile acids so that they are less prone to enter your system, preventing your liver from synthesizing plaque-causing triglycerides and LDL.
  • Promotes digestive health: fermentation of soluble fiber in your stomach produces short chain fatty acids. These anti-inflammatory compounds have been shown to effectively reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel disease, diarrhea and/or constipation. Short chain fatty acids can reduce the pH of your colon. Increased acidity makes your colon lining less likely to form polyps and tumor cells.
  • Reduces food transit time: insoluble fiber continuously absorbs water into your intestines during digestion. This increases the bulk of food, speeds up its movement in your intestines and softens your stools. Having sufficient insoluble fiber can help maintain bowel regularity as well as prevent constipation.

Daily Fiber Need

Surveys have shown that most Americans are not consuming enough fiber to meet the standard for healthy living. On average, your daily recommended intake of dietary fiber is 25 grams, but some studies have shown that you should take as much as 35 grams of fiber everyday for better health.

Too much fiber intake can also be problematic. An overdose of soluble fiber can induce gas buildups in your colon. This can cause bloating and flatulence. Though is very rarely occurs, insoluble fiber overdoses can cause diarrhea.

Sources of Dietary Fiber

All fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are rich sources of fiber. Soluble fibers are especially high in legumes, oats, barley and berries, while insoluble fibers are more abundant in nuts and seeds, wheat and corn bran and fruits. Fiber can also be fortified into foods like yogurt, cottage cheese and cereals. Some brands of cereals can contain as much as 57% of dietary fiber in just ½ cup of cereal.

Try tracking your fiber intake by using the tools available on FitDay.com. 

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