A high intake in fiber from a variety of sources can help prevent a lot of health issues. However, did you know that the majority of people consume only half of the recommended fiber intake? Read this article to find out how you can optimize your fiber intake!
Dietary fibers are the carbohydrates of the edible parts of plants that are neither digested nor absorbed in the small intestine. They are found in plant-based foods, that is to say vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes.
A high intake in dietary fiber has many health benefits, including the following:
Fibers can be classified according to different characteristics such as their length, viscosity and solubility. Depending on their unique characteristics, fibers have a tons of beneficial effects.
Prebiotics are fermentable carbohydrates that are beneficial for the microbiota and health by selectively promoting the growth of good probiotic bacteria.
Resistant starches are a type of long-chain fiber that is fermentable, can act as a prebiotic to feed the good bacteria in the gut and provide health benefits. They are found in whole grains, seeds, legumes, un-ripe bananas, corn and some starchy foods which are cooked and then cooled (such as potatoes, oatmeal, pasta and rice).
Insoluble fibers include cellulose and methylcellulose. They are found in wheat bran and residue-rich foods such as nuts as well as fruit and vegetable peels. They help regulate the intestinal transit by speeding up the passage of food through the intestine. They act like sponges in the intestine by absorbing water and thus increasing the volume of stool, which helps to regulate intestinal function.
Soluble fibers include pectin, guar gum, resistant starches and psyllium. They are found in foods such as oats and oat bran, barley, quinoa, flax and chia seeds, fruits rich in pectin (apples, oranges, grapefruits, peaches, pears, mangos, strawberries, raspberries, etc.), certain vegetables (sweet potatoes, peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, etc.) as well as certain legumes. Soluble fibers form a gel when mixed with water, which can help improve stool consistency, lower blood cholesterol and slow down carbohydrate absorption. They act as prebiotics by fermenting in the colon to feed the good probiotic bacteria.
There are also dietary fibers called “new fibers” which are manufactured ingredients, extracted from natural sources or from synthetic production, so as to create sources of dietary fiber. These include inulin (extracted from chicory or Jerusalem artichoke roots), oat hull fiber (extracted from the oat grain envelope) and polydextrose (synthetic fiber, manufactured by industry). They are added to various processed foods in order to improve their nutritional value. However, it would appear that not all new fibers that are added to foods have the same benefits as naturally present fiber. While they may act beneficially as prebiotics and on intestinal regularity, they do not seem to offer benefits on blood glucose control, satiety and lowering blood cholesterol.