Dietary fiber is that portion of plant foods that is hard to digest. Also known as roughage or bulk, dietary fiber passes through stomach, small intestine and colon. It also helps in cleaning the colon, thereby reducing the risk of colorectal cancer. Dietary fiber is not easily broken down by digestive enzymes. Since, the roughage or bulk passes through the stomach and intestine, it is unable to be absorbed into the system. In other words, dietary fibers are complex carbohydrates that cannot be digested or absorbed by the body. The daily needs of fiber differ for both men and women. The requirement of fiber changes according to age. Women below 50 years need 25 grams of fiber daily, while men need an intake of 38 grams. Women aged 51 and older require 21 grams of fiber, while men need to take 30 grams daily.
Types of dietary fiber and its benefits
Dietary fiber is of two types, namely soluble and insoluble. Both these fibers help in proper functioning of your digestive system. Foods such as whole grain products, fruits and vegetables contain insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber provides bulk to your diet and makes bowel movements easier, thereby preventing constipation. Oat bran and dried beans contain soluble fiber, which helps in lowering cholesterol and keeping blood sugar levels stable.
Role of dietary fiber in weight loss
- Dietary fiber adds roughage to your diet. Eating healthier and natural foods containing fiber makes you feel full. You tend to consume less, thereby leading to weight loss.
- Dietary fiber aids in digestion by absorbing and holding moisture in the digestive system. It helps in making the stuffing of the colon softer and bulky by acting like a sponge. This helps in reducing the amount of time waste materials stay in your body.
- Dietary fiber reduces constipation problems by increasing the size of your stool. The chances of constipation are minimized when you are easily able to pass a bulky stool.
- A fiber rich diet can provide you with sufficient energy throughout the day. This will allow you to exercise, which is very important in weight loss.
Plant foods, vegetables, beans, fruit, whole grains, and nuts are rich sources of fiber and help in weight loss. These foods provide health benefits as they are naturally rich in nutrients. Consuming foods rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber prevents obesity and other coronary disease.
Besides, higher fiber diets have several other health benefits. High fiber diets help in controlling blood sugar level in a better manner. They also lower blood-cholesterol levels and minimize the risk of heart and kidney disease.
Side effects of excess fiber in your diet
Consuming excessive fiber in a short period of time can cause problems like intestinal gas, bloating, and abdominal cramps. However, if you add fiber to your diet little by little, it will help in reducing gas or diarrhea.
Although dietary fiber must be included in your diet, it is important to know the amount of fiber required as per your gender and age. It is necessary to follow the recommended guidelines for fiber intake.