Is Your Fiber Intake Optimal?

12 January, 2021 ,

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!

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What Exactly is Fiber?

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.

Health Benefits of Fiber

A high intake in dietary fiber has many health benefits, including the following:

  • Improved insulin sensitivity and better blood sugar control in diabetics and pre-diabetics
  • Prevention of cardiovascular disease, as well as a decrease in bad cholesterol, blood pressure and the prevalence of strokes
  • Reduced risk of metabolic syndrome
  • Increased satiety and healthy body weight management
  • Reduced risk of weight gain and obesity
  • Prebiotic effect by stimulating the growth of good intestinal bacteria
  • Optimizing the immune system
  • Regularity of intestinal function and prevention of constipation
  • Reduced risk of colon, gastric and esophageal cancers
  • Reduced risk of diverticulitis
  • Decreased prevalence of other gastrointestinal disorders including hiatal hernias, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gallbladder diseases, peptic ulcers and hemorrhoids

The Different Types of Fibers

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

Prebiotics are fermentable carbohydrates that are beneficial for the microbiota and health by selectively promoting the growth of good probiotic bacteria.

Resistant Starches

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

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

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.

New Fibers

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.

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Author

Kathryn Adel

Kathryn Adel

Kathryn completed degrees in kinesiology and nutrition, as well as a Masters in Sports Nutrition. She is a member of OPDQ and of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She ran track and cross-country at a national level. Kathryn specializes in sports nutrition, weight loss, diabetes, as well as heart and gastrointestinal health. Kathryn is experienced with the low FODMAP diet and she completed the Monash University low FODMAP dietitian’s training.

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