Getting Your Dietary Fiber



By Kyla Miller, R.H.N.;

Fiber is an essential part of every diet. It is also important to know that there are two distinct components of dietary fiber that are required in order for you to reap its complete health benefits. These two types are known as soluble and insoluble fiber. While somewhat different in nature, both work together to prevent problems and contribute important element that can make for a healthy digestive system. 

 Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber is fiber that will not dissolve in liquid. As such, this type of fiber fulfills the important task of helping to keep the digestive tract free of anything that could cause a blockage. Insoluble fiber will absorb liquid and expand in the tract, gently but effectively speeding the process of pushing food through your digestive system, while scraping the interior walls of your tract clean, so it can be freed up for the next round of food.

The health benefits of insoluble dietary fiber occur largely in the later part of the digestive system (colon) and include the following:

1. Insoluble fiber improves the health of the intestinal tract by increasing stool volume and stimulating normal bowel contractions, thus reducing transit time through the colon. This protects against digestive complaints like constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis.
2. By accelerating the speed of food through the intestinal tract, insoluble fiber may help prevent digestive disorders such as constipation or diverticulosis (infection caused by food getting stuck in small pouches in the wall of your colon). It may also reduce the absorption of salt, thus reducing the risk of raised blood pressure, and toxins.

Insoluble fiber foods, such as dark leafy vegetables, the skins of fruits and vegetables, any product made from whole grains, and most seeds or nuts, are going to provide all of these important benefits and can help keep your digestive system running smoothly.

Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber will dissolve in liquid, and can be found in most types of fruit. Due to soluble fiber absorbing readily into the body, it can be an effective tool in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber turns into a gel in the digestive tract and works to keep the rate of food passing through the system from progressing too quickly. This allows the nutrients derived from food to be absorbed into the system before the bulk is excreted. Soluble fiber is thought to also help with maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, which may indirectly also promote a healthier cardiovascular system. 

The health benefits of water soluble fiber occur largely in the early part of the digestive system (stomach and small intestine) and include the following:

1. Soluble fiber slows down digestion in the stomach and small intestine. This helps to slow down the conversion of other carbohydrates into glucose, thus stabilizing blood glucose levels. The presence of fiber in carb-rich foods actually lowers the glycemic index of that food. By slowing down the digestive process in the stomach thus forcing nutrients to spend more time in the digestive zone, soluble fiber may also increase the uptake of minerals and other nutrients in food.

2. Soluble fiber forms a thick gel when it comes into contact with water in the digestive tract. This swelling-effect, allied to the slowing down of the digestive process, increases our feeling of fullness (satiety) without adding calories. Fiber is therefore a useful element in any healthy weight loss diet.

3. Soluble fiber appears to reduce blood cholesterol levels. This is because the fiber binds with bile acids and cholesterol in the digestive tract, preventing them from being absorbed by the body.

4. Soluble fiber may also have cancer benefits. Modified citrus pectin, when fed to rats, appeared to reduce the size of tumors. In some as yet unknown way, the pectin appears to interfere with cancer cells linking together to form tumors.

To get the soluble fiber you need eat plenty of oats, dried beans, barley, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Psyllium husk and flax seed are also good sources of this type of fiber.


List of High Fiber Foods

1.      Dried fruit such as figs, dates, and apricots
2.      Fruit like raspberries, strawberries, cherries, plums, pears, kiwi, banana, avocado and apples.
3.      Vegetables like fresh or frozen green peas, broccoli, corn, potato, carrots, and brussel sprouts.
4.      Green vegetable including spinach, kale, collards, beet greens, and swiss chard.
5.      Nuts such as almonds, brazil nuts, pistachios, peanuts and walnuts.
6.      Legumes and lentils like dried beans, peas and other legumes including kidney beans, split peas, garbanzos, lentils, pinto beans, lima beans and black beans.
7.      Rye, oats, buckwheat and cornmeal.
8.      Whole grains and barley products.

*Where applicable, leaving the skin on your fruits and vegetables will increase your dietary fiber intake.

Getting Enough Fiber

As you can see, there are many sources of both types of fiber. Include them in your diet, and you will be doing yourself a big favor.

To make sure you get enough fiber in your diet, you may need to make some small changes in your dietary habits. For example, having an apple or an orange for breakfast or a bowl of oatmeal instead of sugary cereal is a great start. If you don’t think you’re getting enough fiber, supplements are available. However, it’s always better to choose natural sources for what your body needs whenever possible.

Your questions: What sources of dietary fiber do you enjoy? How often do you eat them? (post your comments below)

Sources:
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About the Author : Kyla Miller is the co-founder of guidinginstincts.com. She has overcome illness through dietary/lifestyle changes, and practicing a positive mindset daily. Kyla is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and is currently studying to become a Reiki Master.

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