Fiber is an essential part of healthy diet. It is one of the nutrients that many of us know is important but remains a bit of mystery.

The American Dietetic Association recommends an average adult to be taking 20-35g of fibers per day. But most only manage up to one-third of the required intake.

What is fiber?

It is the indigestible part of plant food. Fiber is also known as bulk or roughage. There is no fiber in meat, fish or poultry and commercial juices. Neither are there fiber in food made from refined flour such as cakes, biscuits and pastries.

Fiber can be divided into water-soluble and water insoluble fiber:

Water Soluble Fiber

This is fiber that can dissolve in water to form a gel like substance. It is mostly found in fruits, carrot, potato, oat, barley and beans.

Soluble fiber increase the time it takes for food to pass through the digestive system, hence, produces the feeling of fullness.

It also reduces the absorption of sugar into the blood, thereby, keeping the blood sugar level even throughout the day.

Soluble fiber support friendly bacteria in the digestive tract, which, in turns produce beneficial fatty acids from fermentation. The fatty acids reduces bad cholesterol in the blood, increase the production of immune cells and improve the health of the large intestine

Water Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber increases the movement of food through the digestive tract, hence, preventing constipation. It acts like a brush to clean the large intestine of any plague and toxins.

You can find insoluble fiber from all vegetables, wheat bran, corn bran and whole grains.

Other benefits of fiber

  • Reduce the risk of colon cancer and some other cancers.
  • Improve gut health by supporting friendly bacteria
  • Improve blood sugar tolerance and insulin response
  • Reduce high blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease by 40%
  • Reduce the number of calories actually absorbed in the body and increase the feeling of fullness, so, helps with weight lost.
  • Reduce the absorption of cholesterol: 5-10 g of fiber a day can reduce the bad cholesterol by 5%

Strategies to increase fiber in your diet

If you have not been eating much fiber, you might want to add it to your diet gradually. Eating too much fiber in a short period of time will lead to gas and discomfort.

Increase the amount of fiber slowly over weeks to let your digestive system time to adjust.

  • Add flaxseed, seeds or nuts to your salad, soup, cereal or yoghurt
  • Choose cereal with minimum of 4g of fiber
  • Use whole grain bread for sandwiches. Try whole grain pasta.
  • Eat fruits as a snack or in between your meals. Take the fruits with the skin.
  • Eat veggies in your meals whenever possible. Have cut up veggies in a bag available to take with you and use them in your meal or snack.

It is not easy to develop a new eating habit. So, be patient as it will take time and practice. If you understand the benefits and follow the strategies, you are well on your way to a better health.

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