We frequently read or hear phrases like “We should eat more fiber”, “The consumption of fiber is great for your health”, and “Eating food enriched with fiber will help you control your cholesterol and glycemia”. However, the concept of fiber is often confusing for some people. What exactly is Fiber? Why should we eat it? How much should we eat? How should we eat it? Fiber is a nutrient “misunderstood” by many and for that reason, this article will help clarify the concepts related to it and certainly you will be able to comprehend its most relevant nutritional properties. But most importantly, how its consumption can help prevent obesity, cardiovascular illnesses and type II diabetes. Also, for those whom have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes, we will see how fiber could be a great ally.

Dietary Fiber is a component that is naturally found in the majority of nutrients with a vegetable origin. In reality, dietary fiber is a type of carbohydrate that does not contain calories. It is not susceptible to the decomposition that takes place in the digestive system, as it goes through the digestive system system without releasing any substances that could be absorbed and later passed to the blood. In other words, dietary fibers cannot be digested or absorbed. It has a more mechanical effect that does not generate a supply of nutrients to the metabolic process. Nonetheless it is essential for the optimal function of the digestive system in a local matter: passing through the stomach, small intestine, colon and then out of the body.

There are two known types of dietary fiber: soluble fibers and insoluble fibers. They are both equally important for your health and play a huge role in preventing illnesses related to dysfunctional nutrition. Now, let’s learn a bit more about them:

Soluble Fibers

This type of fiber can be easily dissolved in water and can form a gel-like substance, just like you can observe when placing flax seeds or Chia seeds in water. This type of fiber, among other properties, has the capacity of reducing cholesterol and blood sugar levels by lowering the speed in which nutrients are absorbed by the intestine. Many common foods containing soluble fiber include: apples, citric fruits, oats, whole grains, carrots, barley, pears, flax seeds, chia seeds and psyllium.

Insoluble fibers

As the name indicates, this type of fiber cannot be dissolved in water. Its primary function is promoting the well movement of the intestines, which will allow for optimal functioning of the digestive system, where it also gives a bulk to the stool that are formed during the process. Constipation is the main consequence of an insoluble fiber deficiency in the diet. Whole grains, nuts, edible seeds, potatoes and cereals are amongst the best sources of insoluble fiber.

The vast majority of foods coming from vegetable origin possess both types of fibers. Although varying between one another according to the food being considered, it is recommended to include a variety of them in order to ensure the benefit of both types of fiber.

How much fiber do we need?

Sadly, in this “modern” era, the vastly consumption of processed food is very common, and the majority of individuals do not ingest a sufficient amount of dietetic fiber (Less than 15 g/day). The recommended daily amount of fiber intake per person can vary according to the subject’s age and gender.

Males: Younger than 50 years of age: 38 g. Older than 50 years of age: 30 g

Females: Younger than 50 years of age: 25 g. Older than 50 years of age: 21 g

By knowing what your average daily need is, it would be very easy to select fiber sources that fit your taste and diet plan. By incorporating the consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, you will enjoy the benefits already mentioned.

Even in cases where there is gluten sensitivity (celiac disease) there are many choices to consume gluten free fiber (the main foods that contain gluten are barley, wheat, rye and oats).

Our final recommendation is for you to define how much fiber you need and select the foods that contains it and that adapts to your specific nutritional plan. If you’re not accustomed to eating a lot of fiber, seek nutritional advising and insert them into your daily diet gradually. Be aware, if you drastically increase your fiber intake too quickly you may experience unpleasant and annoying situations like gas, bloating and cramping. Oh! And very importantly, drinking water is fiber greatest ally! more  

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