Fiber nutrition is an essential component of a daily diet to promote good health. Fiber has many benefits and functions that contribute to good health, and should be ingested in adequate amounts to promote proper bodily functions.
What is Dietary Fiber?
Fiber is an indigestible product that is essentially found in the cell walls of plants. Sometimes referred to as 'roughage', fiber pushes food along the digestive tract, making bowel movements easier. It interacts with food products in the intestines and digestive system and changes the nature of these products. Fiber is eventually discarded from the body without being digested.
Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber
There are essentially two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is capable of absorbing water, which is fermented in the digestive tract by bacteria. As such, it forms a gelatinous texture which helps to soften stool. Insoluble fiber is incapable of absorbing water, and passes through the digestive tract virtually unchanged. Both soluble and insoluble fiber are necessary for proper bodily functions, and have many health benefits, which are outlined below.
Stabilizing Blood Glucose Levels
Maintaining proper blood glucose levels is important to prevent disorders such as diabetes. Soluble fiber does this by slowing down the digestion of foods in the stomach and intestines. This in turn slows down the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose, which helps to maintain levels of glucose in the blood.
Fiber helps to lower cholesterol in the body by eliminating it through waste. Fiber has the ability to collect fatty acids and blood cholesterol and move it out of the body quickly, through efficient and frequent bowel movements. In addition, fiber has the ability to lower cholesterol production in the liver, which results in a reduction in total cholesterol levels.
Provides a Feeling of Fullness to Maintain Weight
Soluble fiber can help a person maintain weight - or lose weight - by providing a feeling of fullness, which helps to offset hunger. Soluble fiber absorbs water, and forms a gelatinous substance when it interacts with food in the digestive tract. As such, it swells in the stomach and intestines, which makes a person feel full. This can be very useful when trying to limit caloric intake.
Stimulating Bowel Movements and Preventing Constipation
Bowel movements can be stimulated and regulated by consuming adequate amounts of fiber on a daily basis. Fiber can increase stool volume and stimulate bowel contractions, which speeds up the extraction of stool through the colon. Quicker elimination can promote more frequent bowel movements, which makes it easier to pass stool.
Dietary fiber can actually help to prevent certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer. Sometimes waste accumulated in the digestive tract and colon can contain carcinogens, which are responsible for the onset of cancer. Since fiber limits the amount of time that waste spends in the digestive tract and colon, the incidence of cancer in these areas can be reduced.