Dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, is a form of carbohydrate in plants that can are not digested or absorbed by the digestive system. They are not broken down into smaller nutrients. Fibers basically pass through the digestive system without any significant change.
Fibers are very important constituent in our diet due to their numerous benefits. Dietary fiber is only found in plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, and legumes.
Fibers are classified into two major categories;
- Insoluble Fibers: These fibers do not dissolve in water and can be used as laxatives. They can be found in seeds, peels of fruits, brown rice, etc.
- Soluble Fibers: These fibers are made of carbohydrates that dissolve in water. They help control blood sugar level and cholesterol level. Soluble fibers can be found in apples, beans, berries, oatmeal, nuts, etc.
Below are various health benefits of fiber and fiber-rich foods;
1. Improves Bowel Movements
Insoluble fiber, found in foods like green leafy vegetables and beans, don’t dissolve at all. Thus, they add bulk to one’s stool which makes the stool move through the bowels more easily and faster for healthy elimination. This makes it easy for a person to have healthy defecation. Most people with bowel problems, such as constipation, are advised to take food rich in fiber.
2. Weight Loss And Weight Management
- Foods rich in fiber are usually low in calories, unlike the cholesterol and calories found in animal proteins.
- Secondly, they take longer to chew and tend to prolong eating time making you get fuller as you eat which would help you not to overindulge/ overeat.
- Thirdly, fiber slows down the breakdown of carbohydrates making you feel full for a much longer time which reduces your appetite and prevents hunger pangs and cravings.
3. Controls Cholesterol
When moving through the intestines and stomach, fiber also picks up bile salts and fats thus flashing them out of the body rather than allowing them to enter into the bloodstream. Thus, they prevent these particles from becoming cholesterol and, thus, reduce cholesterol in the body.
4. For Hemorrhoids Treatment And Prevention
As aforementioned, fiber helps to add bulk to one’s stool, thus, decreasing the amount of time taken to process non-metabolic waste out of the body which prevents constipation that could cause pain and itchiness in your anus which is what we call hemorrhoids.
The pressure you put when trying to push low bulk stool can cause veins in the rectum and anus to bulge, thus, producing hemorrhoids. These hemorrhoids often itch or bleed and are usually accompanied by severe pain and swelling. Creams never fully fix the issue of hemorrhoids, the best way is to deal with the problem from its roots and that is adding fiber to your diet.
5. Cancer Prevention
Cancer is caused by harmful free radicals which damage healthy cells. Cancer is a disease of the cells. However, fiber-rich foods provide a good amount of oxidants into the body that inhibits these free radicals.
Fiber-rich foods particularly help prevent colon cancer. The colon is a long, flexible tube that helps to excrete feces. When it’s constricting and struggling to push a low bulk stool, it cramps and becomes tight and this causes constipation, gases, and bloating which is not healthy at all for the colon.
6. Diabetes Control
As aforementioned, by slowing down the breakdown of carbohydrates and increasing the excretion of wastes, fiber reduces the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream which helps in diabetes management.
7. For Healthy Hair
Foods rich in fiber contain Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E that help keep your hair strong and healthy. Thus, fiber helps prevent hair shedding and weak follicles.
8. Reduces Risk Of Cardiovascular Diseases
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that travels through your body’s bloodstream. Over time, cholesterol could lead to fatty build up in the wall of the arteries which then narrows and stiffens the arteries and eventually blocks the arteries which could cause a heart attack or stroke.
Fibre collects not just water when moving through the small intestines but also bile salts as well as some fats and expelling them from the body before they are absorbed into the bloodstream and become cholesterol.
Lower cholesterol and fats in your body and blood mean a healthy heart. Some fiber-rich foods like nuts and beans are rich in good fats (omega-3), monosaturated fats which help keep the arteries clear.
9. Lowers Risk Of Kidney Stone
Crystallization of minerals present in the kidney leads to kidney stones which can be extremely painful. The fiber in the digestive tract binds with oxalate that comes from food and stops it from reaching the kidneys. This prevents the formation of calcium oxalate stones in the kidneys.
10. Healthy Lungs
Dietary fiber helps to fight systematic inflammation and thus helps reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases such as COPD. Beans contain high levels of anti-oxidants which fight off harmful free radicals that cause lung damage. Free radicals occur from unhealthy lifestyles like consuming junk food, smoking, high-stress levels and pollution in air and water.
11. Stronger Bones
Foods high in fiber, like kale and beans, contain calcium, magnesium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids which are recommended for healthy bones. So who says you can only get healthy bones from drinking milk?
12. For Healthy Gut Bacteria
Some fiber-rich foods contain probiotics that enhance good intestinal bacteria. The bacteria helps in many ways to improve a person’s health. For example, they help in improving one’s digestion. These fibers also help in controlling constipation.
13. For Cognitive Function
Nuts, especially almonds, are rich in vitamins and minerals such as Zinc that protects brain cells from harmful free radical damage. Vitamin B6 aids the metabolism of proteins that repair brain cells. Vitamin E and Omega-3 fatty acid slow down brain aging for improved cognitive function especially for people who are diabetic.
14. Anti-Aging Properties
One can delay aging by consuming the right foods and nutrients. Green leafy vegetables, like kale, are loaded with phytonutrients which boosts collagen production, antioxidants that inhibit harmful free radicals which damage skin cells and beta-carotene that keeps the skin firm and free from wrinkles.
15. Balances Hormones
Hormonal imbalance can cause major health problems; some of the symptoms include persistent weight gain, chronic fatigue, low energy, anxiety, irritability, depression, poor sleep patterns, low libido, and acne. Hormonal imbalance could be caused by diet, medical history, exposure to the polluted environment and stress levels.
Adding fiber to your diet helps in hormone production, increases metabolism, as well as reduces inflammation and stress. Fiber helps to get rid of hormones that are not in use so make sure to add fibers to your diet.
16. Cleansing Properties
When it comes to cleansing your body of toxic properties, natural is the best way to go about it. A fiber-rich diet detoxifies organs in your body, like kidneys, intestines, skin, liver, by preventing the harmful build-up of toxins. Also, fibers’ anti-inflammatory property helps prevent body inflammations that could be triggered by toxins.
17. Prevents High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure could be caused by oxidative stress which is caused by numerous harmful free radicals accumulating in your body. Oxidative stress causes constriction of blood vessels. As blood vessels get tighter and tighter, one’s blood pressure goes up. We already know that free radicals are caused by unhealthy lifestyle such as smoking, eating junk food, environmental pollution, etc. A diet rich in fiber can help prevent you from getting high blood pressure due to their high antioxidant content which helps inhibit free radicals that cause you to have oxidative stress.
18. For Healthy Skin
Fiber can also help flush fungus and microbes out of your body and this would help prevent them from being excreted through your skin as they could trigger acne. Furthermore, the antioxidants available in fiber-rich foods protect your skin from the damage caused by harmful free radicals and oxidative stress.
19. For Healthy Pregnancy
High folic acid in fiber-rich foods promotes healthy cell and tissue growth of fetus to reduce birth defects and for a healthy pregnancy.
Word Of Caution
Too much consumption of fiber could lead to nutritional deficiencies as it could prevent the optimal assimilation of nutrients and antioxidants such as beta-carotene and iron. As such, contact your health care provider or doctor before engaging in a strict high-fiber diet. Also, ensure to stay hydrated as fiber tends to expel fluid from the digestive tract for optimal digestion.
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