Fiber, as you know, is a type of carbohydrate that our body cannot digest or absorb. It is referred to as bulk or roughage. Because our bodies cannot digest fiber it passes through our stomach, small intestines, colon and out of our bodies relatively intact. Fiber (also termed as dietary fiber) can help you with regular bowel movements. It also assists with weight loss. Studies have shown that optimal fiber intake can help lower heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It may help with certain types of cancer like colorectal cancer.
Fiber is found exclusively in plants and is essential for good health. Yet, nearly none of us are eating enough. While our ancestors may have eaten 100g per day, the average nowadays is just 15g of fiber. Getting enough fiber may be the #1 thing we can do to supercharge our health.
Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and forms a gel-like substance. Some examples of soluble fiber are gum, pectin and mucilage. Food sources rich in soluble fiber are peas, oats, apples, beans, carrots and barley.
The main benefits of soluble fiber are that it helps to reduce blood glucose levels and blood cholesterol levels. Another interesting fact about soluble fiber is that it is food to the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut. Did you know that bacteria in your large intestine outnumber human cells by 10:1?
Most of the food that we eat is digested and absorbed from the small intestine and hardly reaches your large intestine. This leaves very little for the bacteria in your gut to feed on.
However soluble fiber passes through the small intestine relatively intact and this makes it a delicious snack for the good bacteria to feast on!
Related : What's an Unhealthy Gut?
Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water. Examples include cellulose, lignin, hemicellulose.
Food sources rich in insoluble fiber are whole bran, whole-wheat like roti, potatoes and beans. The main benefits of insoluble fiber is that it helps you keep regular by speeding up the passage of foods from the intestines.
How Much Do I Need?
Optimal Fiber intake is dependent on one’s age and gender. Check out the table below to find out your fiber intake.
Foods High in Fiber
It’s important to eat a variety of high fiber foods to ensure that you get both types of fiber i.e. soluble and insoluble.
You don’t need to be particular about getting a fixed amount of a specific type of fiber as almost all fiber foods contain varying amounts of fiber types in them.
Fiber intake in most fruits is 2-3g for every 100 grams. Avocado is one fruit which is super high in fiber providing 7g of fiber per 100g.
Fiber in most vegetables is also between 2-3g/100g. However, lima beans, peas, squash, artichoke are loaded with fiber at 6g/100g! Your regular veggies like broccoli, spinach, carrots, brussels sprouts, okra (bhindi), sweet potatoes, etc contain between 2-3g/100g as mentioned above.
Oats, barley, ragi, brown rice, roti are all high fiber foods. Just make sure that you source the ingredients from a reputed store as most commercially available grains and oats are highly processed leaving very little fiber in them!
Tips to increase fiber intake
Eat whole fruits instead of drinking fruit juices.
Replace white rice, bread, and pasta with brown rice and whole grain products.
For breakfast, choose oatmeal or cereals that have a whole grain as their first ingredient.
Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips, crackers, or chocolate bars.
Substitute beans or legumes for meat two to three times per week in chili and soups.
About the authors:
Madur & Anitha Jagannath are certified Nutrition Consultants, in addition to their professions in technology and human resources. When Madur started feeling lethargic and slowing down, he started exercising regularly, became conscious of healthy eating habits and nutrition. He is an avid runner and does half-marathons often. At Voyage to Wellness, they attribute our reputation to the lasting customer relationships they have developed throughout the years. They believe in health & wellness and being fit, at all stages of people's lives.
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