Fiber is essential to a healthy digestive system and maintaining a healthy gut is central to overall well being. Fiber is also known as roughage.
It is the indigestible part of plant foods that pushes through our digestive system, absorbing water along the way and easing bowel movements. The average healthy male under the age of 50 is supposed to eat as much as 38 grams of fiber a day and for women, the figure is 25 grams.
A high-fiber diet has many benefits. A brief list is given below.
- Normalizes bowel movements. Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may also help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to stool.
- Helps maintain bowel health. A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon.
- Lowers cholesterol levels. Soluble fiber found in beans, oats, flaxseed and oat bran may help lower total blood cholesterol levels by lowering low-density lipoprotein, or “bad,” cholesterol levels.
- Helps control blood sugar levels. In people with diabetes, fiber — particularly soluble fiber — can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. A healthy diet that includes insoluble fiber may also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Aids in achieving healthy weight. High-fiber foods generally require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you are no longer hungry, so you are less likely to overeat.
There are 2 types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber makes one feel fuller and slows digestion to keep the blood sugar levels in control. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, makes waste softer, so that it can pass through the intestines more easily.
A deficiency in fiber can lead to constipation, elevated levels of cholesterol and even hemorrhoids. Conversely, an excess of fiber can lead to bowel destruction, diarrhea and dehydration.
Top Foods for Fiber
Apples: This fiber rich fruit provides a host of other health benefits, which include preventing dementia and improving neurological health. One medium sized apple contains more than 5 grams of pectin fiber, around 17% of the daily recommended value and less than 100 calories. Apple also contains a high amount of water, which will help to keep your bowels regular. Do not peel apples before eating, since most of the fiber is present in its skin.
Sweet Corn: Sweet corn features high-quality phyto-nutrients which include vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. You can eat corn as a side dish, or you can add it to your soups, salads and pizzas.
Cabbage: Cabbage is not just well known for its cancer fighting antioxidants such as indole-3 carbinol, but is also a great source of fiber. It is highly recommended to people who want to lose weight in a healthy way.
Broccoli: Broccoli is a perennial super-food that is high in fiber and other essential nutrients like vitamin A, C and E. It contains calcium D- glucarate, a compound which helps to bind and clear excess estrogen from the body.
Navy Beans: Navy Beans are one of the best foods you can include to get more fiber in your diet. A cup of navy beans serving will give you a whopping 20 grams of fiber. This is almost 80% of your daily required amount. Navy bean is a versatile vegetable, which you can include in your rice, soups and dips.
Whole Grains: Unlike flour, whole grains are not refined and contain bran layers, which provide them with high fiber and nutrition. Whole grain pasta, cereals and breads are some of the foods you can eat to get a boost in your fiber levels.
Oats: Oats are considered as a power-food because of the high levels of dietary fiber and nutrients in them. Oats are quite low in glycemic index, which helps to slow the absorption of sugar from the digestive tract into the blood. So eat oats for your breakfast to keep the energy levels steady and reduce excess hunger.
Nuts: Raw, unsalted nuts are excellent, natural sources of fiber. Brazil nuts and pine nuts are the best sources of fiber. However, some nuts are very high in fats, hence, should be eaten in moderation.
Seeds: Seeds like chive seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds are high in fiber and other essential nutrients. Flax seed is loaded with fiber and 1 tablespoon will provide you with 9 grams of fiber.
Almond: Almonds are very rich in fiber and will help you immensely to keep your system regular. In addition to providing 4 grams of fiber, one ounce-serving of almonds will also help to maintain heart health.
Spinach: Spinach is one of the super-foods with a plethora of health benefits. Spinach leaves are loaded with calcium, vitamin C, antioxidants and many more nutrients. It contains ample amount of fiber, which acts as a natural cleanser for the colon and works to keep the system clean.
Beet Greens: Beet greens are loaded with vitamin A and C, folate and fiber. These have a unique flavor and you can easily pair them with savory spices like garlic, onion, peppers and olive oil to make a tasty dish.
Carrots: Carrots can help to reduce cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and improve eyesight. The fiber content in carrot will prevent digestive disorders and gastric ulcers.
Brown Rice: Brown rice is packed with insoluble fiber, making it an excellent addition to your fiber rich diet. The insoluble fiber in it will help to relieve constipation and the pains related to it.
Most foods which are high in fiber are also very good for you for other reasons. So, if you seek a high-fiber diet, not only will you be protecting your health because of your fiber intake, but also because you will consume other essential nutrients.