Unfortunately enough, fiber is often ignored when someone talks about or opts for a balanced diet. All talk focuses on changes in protein, carbohydrate, fat, and water intake while fiber takes a backseat. This however, is not a very good approach. Consuming adequate fiber is as important as having the rest of the nutritional components.
There are two types of fiber, namely soluble and insoluble. Of the two, soluble fiber dissolves in water and slows down digestion. On the other hand, insoluble fiber neither dissolves nor absorbs in water but passes through the digestive tract, speeding up the movement of food.
Here is why fiber should be an essential part of your diet:
Regulates blood glucose levels
Fiber intake has been associated with maintaining normal blood glucose levels, helping in warding off diabetes. Soluble fiber is considered especially beneficial for diabetics as it can help control blood glucose levels by slowing digestion and preventing sudden blood glucose spikes that can occur after a low fiber meal.
Normalizes bowel movements
A significant benefit that fiber has for the digestive system is that it softens stool and helps in its excretion from the body. In fact, it is a highly recommended remedy for people who suffer from constipation. A diet rich in fiber greatly helps overcome this uncomfortable issue which is much better than using medication.
Removes bad cholesterol
A lesser known fact about fiber is that it also helps the body get rid of ‘bad cholesterol’. This is the cholesterol we get from animal sources and which collects in the body and blood vessels to cause complications like obesity, atherosclerosis and heart disease. Fiber consumption has shown to reduce the level of this type of cholesterol in the blood. Soluble fiber tends to bind with cholesterol in the intestines and prevents it from being absorbed by the body.
Boosts weight management
Fiber also plays a vital role in weight management. By consuming enough fiber, you fill your stomach so that the brain receives messages of satiety or of being full. This will relieve your hunger. However, this fiber cannot be digested by your body, so it will not accumulate in it.
By comparison, carbohydrates and fats needed to fulfill hunger will be completely digested and absorbed by the body. Some of these will be utilized by the body tissues to produce energy, but excessive amounts will end up being deposited in the body, leading to weight gain. This is why dietary fiber is very important on diet plans for weight loss or weight management.
Complications of inadequate dietary fiber
A lack of fiber in diet can lead to many complications involving the digestive system. Constipation is merely the milder consequence. In worst cases it could lead to more severe conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, colitis or even colon cancer. It can also lead to a disturbance in the normal and naturally occurring flora/bacteria in the gastro-intestinal tract.
On average, a healthy adult is advised to take at least 30g of fiber every day. Most people only manage to consume a half of this. However, like all other nutrients, the amount of recommended fiber intake varies from person to person. To achieve maximum benefits of fiber, you can calculate your own daily requirement of fiber here.