Why do we need fiber in our diets?

Why do we need fiber in our diets?

We often hear doctors, nutritionists and other dietary experts say that we should be getting plenty of fiber in our diets. Yet how many people actually take that advice—or even know why a high-fiber diet is beneficial to their health?

Fiber—also known as bulk or roughage—comes from foods that are not easily digested by the body, and which therefore pass through the body essentially intact. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.  

There are two types of fiber, both of which should be included in a healthy diet:

  • Soluble fiber is found in foods such as oatmeal, oat bran, a variety of berries, beans, peas, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, seeds and nuts. This type of fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance as it travels through the body. Soluble fiber aids in reducing cholesterol and controlling blood sugar levels.
  • Insoluble fiber is found in whole-wheat flour, whole grains, wheat bran, brown rice, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes and tomatoes. This type of fiber helps material pass through the digestive system. For those who deal with constipation and other bowel issues, this insoluble fiber can help with regular bowel movement and stools.

The benefits of a high-fiber diet include:

  • The promotion of good bowel health. Fiber adds bulk, weight and softness to the stool, which can ease chronic constipation and other irritable bowel disorders.
  • Eating the recommended daily allotment of fiber reduces the chances of developing hemorrhoids and diverticulitis, a serious disease of the colon.
  • Soluble fiber reduces the amount of lipoproteins (or “bad cholesterol”) in the bloodstream, which in turn lowers overall cholesterol levels. It can also slow the absorption of sugar, which helps guards against type 2 diabetes. Soluble fiber has also been linked to reduced blood pressure.
  • Because high-fiber foods require more time to chew, they extend meal times and give you the sense that you’re eating more. High-fiber foods can help you feel full for longer periods of time between meals and prevent overeating, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Though there's a belief that dietary fiber may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, scientific findings on whether dietary fiber has a significant impact on the incidence of colorectal cancer are mixed.

The daily recommended allotment of fiber is as follows:

  • Men under 51: 38 grams. Men 51 and older: 30 grams.
  • Women under 51: 25 grams. Women 51 and older: 21 grams.

Fiber works best in the digestive system in the presence of water, so be sure to drink plenty of it in conjunction with your fiber-rich diet.

Posted: 3/05/2015 by Goshen Health
Filed under: Cancer, Colorectal, Diet, Fiber, Heart

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