Role of Dietary Fiber

Dietary fibers, commonly known as roughage, are an essential part of any diet. Dietary fibers are basically the portion of plant food, which remains indigestible and tend to absorb water during its passage through the digestive system. Chemically speaking, dietary fibers usually consist of nonstarch polysaccharides such as cellulose and other components such as inulin, pectins, oligo saccharides, and dextrin.

Dietary fibers can be either soluble (i.e., the dietary fibers that can dissolve in water and become a gel-like on absorption of water) or insoluble (the ones that do not dissolve in water). Both of the soluble and insoluble dietary fibers are indigestible and eventually pass out through the system. Although all plant foods have both types of soluble and insoluble fibers, they might be present in varied proportions. The role of soluble dietary fibers is to produce health-promoting substances in the body and that of insoluble fibers is to reduce the transit time for the food in the intestinal tract by adding bulk and softening the stools.

Nutritional facts
Removing fibers from foods leads to easier conversion of food into fats, which get stored in fat cells and blood.
  • Dietary fibers play an important role in hypertension and diabetes management because of their intrinsic ability to discourage absorption of fat into cells. An increase in the consumption of dietary fibers implies an increase in waste of calories. When fat becomes associated with fiber, most of the fat is not digested, and what cannot be digested is thrown out. Thus, to a great extent, the key to controlling calories and hence weight is choosing foods that are rich in dietary fibers.
  • Amongst the nutritional facts of dietary fibers, the feeling of satiety induced by them is of crucial importance for those who are watching calories. The water-holding properties of fibers make them bulkier. Thus, including a reasonable quantity of fibers in a diet is sure to fill our stomach faster and give us a feeling of fullness much sooner than eating foods with less fiber. This helps to curb over-eating and indulgence in fatty snacks for calorie watchers. In diabetes patients, dietary fibers work to maintain stable blood glucose levels and a better insulin response. Since food cravings are reduced, the chances to adhere to any calorie-counted regime also get enhanced.
  • Yet another nutritional fact which favors health is the soluble fiber’s ability to carry the cholesterol out of the system.
  • Dietary fibers qualify as an excellent detoxification aid, as they help to cleanse off the unwanted toxins from the digestive tract.
Fiber-rich foods include whole wheat bread, oatmeal, brown rice, whole fruits, green leafy vegetables, soy protein, and sprouts. When we remove fibers from fruits, as in strained fruit juices or from whole grains, we are not only stripping off the fiber but also removing essential vitamins and minerals. Contrary to foods rich in dietary fibers, refined and fiber-deprived foods like chips, white bread, white rice, pizzas, burgers, fruit juices, and pastries tend to be sources of nutritionally void empty calories.

The best way to step up fiber content is to add green leafy vegetables and protein-rich fiber foods such as beans, nuts, and seeds in the daily diet. A diet based on the correct balance of lean proteins and dietary fibers helps to cut down on calories and keeps us active. Start the day with a protein-packed breakfast comprising of oat meal and yoghurt or egg whites and multigrain breads. Enjoy fresh vegetable soups as starters, greens as accompaniments, and fruits and nuts as snacks. Most bowel-cleansing diets suggest intake of high-fiber foods, psyllium husk, and green juices, which not only help to cleanse the colon but also boost immunity.

Including dietary fibers in the diet has manifold health benefits, ranging from being an aid for controlling calories and losing weight, building a protective shield against digestive disorders like constipation and IBS to lowering the blood cholesterol levels and the risk of diabetes and heart diseases.
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