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Why Fiber Nutrition Is Essential for Digestion

Dec 14, 2009

Dietary fiber nutrition is essential for the digestion of foods that we eat every day. It's also known as roughage, and aids digestion by absorbing water and pushing food along the digestive tract, making bowel movements easier. A certain amount of dietary fiber should be incorporated into our daily diet for proper digestion. Use Fitday to track your fiber intake.

What Is Fiber?

Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that encourages proper bowel function. It is a type of carbohydrate that travels along the digestive tract without being broken down by bodily enzymes, and is thus passed through the body virtually unchanged and undigested.

Soluble vs. Insoluble Dietary Fiber

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble dietary fiber is capable of dissolving in water, whereas insoluble fiber cannot. Although fiber does not get digested by the body, soluble fiber is fermented by bacteria, absorbs water and develops a gelatinous texture. Insoluble fiber passes through the digestive tract without absorbing any water, and thus passes through unchanged. Both types are important to provide the full benefits of dietary fiber.

Benefits of Fiber Intake

By aiding in digestion, dietary fiber helps to treat or prevent constipation. Fiber increases the number of bowel movements in the body, which makes it easier to pass stool. An adequate amount of fluids must be taken in conjunction with fiber. Large amounts of fiber ingested without enough fluids can actually aggravate constipation, which is why it's important to combine fluid intake with fiber intake.

Fiber can also prevent bowel disorders, including colon cancer. Passing regular, frequent, softer stools can actually result in fewer bowel problems through rough dietary fiber. In addition, dietary fiber speeds up the elimination of toxic waste through the colon.

Recommendations of Daily Fiber Intake

The amount of fiber you should consume on a daily basis depends on your gender and age. Follow the guidelines below to understand how much dietary fiber you should be getting on a daily basis:

Fiber Recommendations for Men:

  • 19 to 30 years of age: 38 grams per day
  • 31 to 50 years of age: 38 grams per day
  • 51 to 70 years of age: 30 grams per day
  • Over 70 years of age: 30 grams per day

Fiber Recommendations for Women

  • 19 to 30 years of age: 25 grams per day
  • 31 to 50 years of age: 25 grams per day
  • 51 to 70 years of age: 21 grams per day
  • Over 70 years of age: 21 grams per day

Sources of Dietary Fiber

The following list is an example of the sources of dietary fiber, and how many grams of fiber thay contain:

  • 1/2 cup of bran cereal: 10 grams
  • 1/2 cup of kidney beans: 6 to 10 grams
  • 1/2 cup of peas: 7 to 9 grams
  • 1/2 cup of lentils: 6 grams
  • 1 slice of whole wheat bread: 4 grams
  • 1 medium apple: 3 grams
  • 1 cup of prunes: 11 grams
  • 1 cup of oatmeal: 4 grams
  • 1/2 cup of spinach: 2 grams
  • 1 cup of strawberries: 4 grams
  • 1/2 cup of raisins: 4 grams

Getting an adequate amount of fiber nutrition helps digestion, which can have a ripple effect on many other health aspects. Learning what you are eating and how much fiber is contained within those foods is important for maintaining proper digestion.

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