The Importance of Fiber as Part of a Healthy Diet

Over the last few decades there have been an incredible number of fad diets that have emerged and disappeared just as quickly. While many people still tend to chase after specialized dieting plans, pills, and other techniques, the answer is simple. There is no magic solution. Rather, a key aspect of maintaining good health is a balanced diet. In particular, ensuring the correct amount of fiber in one’s diet is important for a number of reasons. Read on for more on fiber and how it helps improve our health.

What is Fiber?

Fiber is typically found in plant materials, and it is a type of carbohydrate. Fibers can either be soluble, or insoluble. Fiber contains several substances, including pectin and cellulose. Unlike many other foods, fiber is actually resistant to the digestive enzymes found in our digestive systems.

  • An Introduction to Dietary Fiber (PDF) – Learn more about fiber in our diets, where to find it, and how to include it in cooking.
  • Fiber Facts (PDF) – Read about sources of good fiber and the ideal amount that we need to consume.
  • All About Fiber – Review a quick guide about fiber and how it works internally.

How Our Bodies Use Fiber

Since fiber is not digested and absorbed into the body, it is primarily used to aid in the digestive process. As it moves through the intestines, it absorbs excess water. It also helps to bulk up other waste materials so that the internal muscles can pass out the waste more easily. In particular, fiber is linked with bowel movements. It can help control problems such as constipation or diarrhea.

  • Processing Fiber – There are many ways in which our bodies use fiber to help digest and process food and waste removal.

Foods High in Fiber

Certain cereals are extremely high in fiber, such as whole grain products, brown rice, whole-wheat flour, and oatmeal. Fresh fruit and vegetables are also excellent sources. In many cases, a good deal of fiber is contained in the skin. When possible, try to eat the skin of fruit, for example with potatoes or apples. When cooking, try to add beans, lentils, or peas to a dish. It bulks up the food, adds flavor, and plenty of extra fiber. It is actually quite easy to make small but significant substitutions while cooking, to create a high-fiber meal. For example, instead of making muffins with only white flour, use half whole-wheat and half white flour. Instead of throwing in chocolate chips, add in blueberries, nuts, or raisins.

  • Sources and Recipes (PDF) – A helpful guide to dietary fiber includes a chart of foods rich in fiber, and high-fiber recipes.
  • Increasing Fiber in Diets (PDF) – See how to substitute certain foods to add more fiber to your diet.
  • Modifying Meal Plans (PDF) – With just a few small adjustments, anyone can adapt their diet to one that is high in fiber.

Advantages of a High Fiber Diet

When we consume fiber, it helps to fill us up. However, as it is not digested, it does not add extra calories. High fiber diets have been shown to lower cholesterol, the risk of cancer, and digestive problems such as hemorrhoids or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Moreover, it not only absorbs water but also excess bile and fat. This makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight level and keep cholesterol levels down. Diabetics can greatly benefit from a high-fiber diet since it does not add dangerous sugars, but instead helps to satisfy in a safe manner. Since fiber absorbs water, it is important for those on a high-fiber diet to drink plenty of liquids to avoid constipation.

  • Benefits of Dietary Fiber – There are numerous advantages in consuming fiber, including lowered cholesterol levels.
  • Decrease Cancer Risk – A high-fiber diet can significantly decrease the risks of developing cancer.
  • Fiber and Blood Glucose – Fiber helps to satisfy hunger pangs, while remaining safe for diabetics and those attempting to lose weight.