Most people overlooked fiber in their diet and many would rather not think about it. However, fiber deserves our attention because of the health benefits it contributes. For optimum health, 25-30 g of fiber a day is required in our diet.

What are the benefits of fiber?

1) Protects against breast cancer

Fiber binds excessive estrogen (female hormone) and draws it out of the body. Consumption of 20g of fiber a day reduces the risk of breast cancer.

This is seen from the research study reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, April 2011, on 86 621 women who eat high vegetables and fruit and low carbohydrate diet was found to reduce the risk of estrogen receptor type cancer.

This also reduces the risk of related diseases such as endometriosis, uterine fibroid and polycystic ovary.

2) Balancing blood sugar level

Many studies reported in nutrition journals concluded that eating fiber dense food could reverse diabetes. 50g of fiber a day can reduce blood sugar level by 10%.

Keep blood sugar level stable cause the body to store less fat. This also helps behaviour and learning difficulties in children affected by blood sugar swings.

3) Protects cardiovascular system

Eating 20g of fiber a day reduces the risk of heart disease by 12%.  Fiber prevents the entry of cholesterol from the intestine into the blood. It binds the cholesterol and carries it out of the body.

4) Prevents colon cancer

Fiber acts like a brush that cleans the intestine. The fiber also reacts with the bacteria in the intestine and fermentation produce short chain fat, which helps to maintain intestinal health. It also helps to maintain a healthy population of probiotic bacteria in the digestive system.

Where can you get fiber?

1) Oat and barley

Soluble fiber in oat and barley called beta-glucan helps to reduce cholesterol and stabilizes blood sugar level. 1 bowl of oatmeal gives 3 g of fiber

2) Bran

Bran is the outermost layer of a grain that is typically removed during processing to increase shelf life. ½ a cup of wheat bran cereal contains 13 g fiber.

3) Seaweed

Seaweed is rich in various types of fibers:

  • Agar – from red seaweed, triples in volume when taken with lots of water to give the feeling of fullness.
  • Algae and kelp has fiber content that is 32-50% of their dry weight
  • Alginate – from brown seaweed, used to increase fiber content in processed food.

4) Beans

Beans are a rich source of fiber and protein. They also contains mineral and vitamins. 1 cup of kidney beans gives 11 g of fiber, which is almost half of the total required.

5) Seeds

Flaxseed and chia seed are rich sources of fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids. Grounded flaxseed can be easily added to any food preparations. Chia seeds can be added into milk, salads, rice or soups

6) Vegetables and fruits

Most vegetables give 2-3 g of insoluble fiber per serving. Fruits contain insoluble fiber from the skin and soluble fiber in the flesh. The WHO ( World Health Organization) recommends a 7 portions of fruits and vegetables for optimum health.

7) Psyllium husk

This is used to cleanse the body by absorbing toxins in the large intestines.

How to increase fiber in your diet?

  1. Eat a high fiber breakfast of oatmeal and fruits or a fruit smoothie made from yoghurt and fruits
  2. Add beans, nuts and seeds into your salads, stew and soup
  3. Switch to brown rice, sweet potato, tapioca and yam instead of white rice, noodles and pasta for your carbohydrates
  4. Have 2-3 portions of fruits and 2-3 portions of vegetables with each meal.

Eating more fiber will prevent the energy slumps during the day. As it has low calories and no fat, it is essential component of weight loss diet.

You should increase your fiber intake slowly to prevent intestinal obstruction. Remember to drink lots of water.

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