The Importance of Dietary Fiber

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The health benefits of fiber are manifold. It plays a pivotal role in the maintenance of health and prevention of diseases and aids in prevention of obesity

Dietary fiber includes various components such as cellulose, insoluble fiber, soluble fiber, lignans, inositol and fructo-oligosaccharides. These elements all have an important part to play in sustaining optimum health.

The Physiological Effects of Dietary Fiber

Experts say a 30 gram intake of dietary fiber per day is enough to stave off various diseases and encourage good health. The following are the major effects of dietary fiber:

Increased Stool weight and decreased Intestinal Transit time: Dietary fiber, especially insoluble fiber, helps add weight/bulk to the stools as a result of its water holding properties. Consequently, stool weight increases. A bulkier stool passes easily through the colon and is effortlessly expelled out of the rectum. What’s more, it requires less straining during the process of evacuation. A high fiber diet checks the occurrence of hemorrhoids (or piles), and varicose veins, closely linked to straining at stool. Most importantly, a larger stool diminishes the transit time in the gut. Feces passes smoothly and quickly out of the colon. The longer the stools remain in the colon, the longer is the individual exposed to cancer-causing compounds present in the intestine.

Improves Digestion: High fiber ensures that the food that is consumed, then is released gradually from the stomach into the intestine. (Fiber speeds up the passage from the intestine to the rectum.) This ensures that the blood sugar level rises gradually and no spiking occurs. Also, improved digestion guarantees better absorption and assimilation of the essential vitamins and minerals. Additionally, the secretion and activity f pancreatic enzymes improves in the presence of fiber.

Lipid Metabolism: Water soluble fiber is able to lower the blood cholesterol level and serum triglyceride level significantly by augmenting their fecal excretion and also preventing their synthesis by the liver. Thus, lowered cholesterol levels keep cardiovascular diseases and diabetes at bay.

anagement of Obesity:A diet that is lacking in fiber is an important and key cause for gaining weight and obesity. Fiber helps shed superfluous weight by inducing satiety, enhancing blood sugar control, increasing purging of wastes from the bowels, and greatly slowing down the eating process.

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Maintains a suitable Intestinal Flora: A high fiber intake promotes a healthy balance between the harmful bacteria and the beneficial bacteria in the colon. High fiber increases the production of short chain fatty acids, which decrease the colon’s pH, thus creating a hospitable environment for the friendly bacteria.

Excellent Sources of Dietary Fiber

Wheat bran, oat bran, whole cereals, legumes, guar gum, fruits, sea weeds, flax seeds, and vegetables are noteworthy sources of fiber. Stepping up the daily intake of these foods will yield considerable and far-reaching health benefits.

As per a study published in the Journal Diabetes Care, the average daily intake of dietary fiber to avert deterimental effect on health, should be atleast 20 grams. These foods help ensure adequate dietary intake of fiber and contribute to an overall improvement in health.

Reference:

Curr Pharm Des, Andoh, A.,T. Tsujikawa, and Y. Fujiyama, Role of Dietary Fiber and Short Chain Fatty Acids in the Colon, 2003

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