Dietary Fiber – Essential For A Healthy Diet

fiberDietary fiber sometimes called bulk or roughage is necessary for a healthy diet.  It is found in plants and includes the edible parts of the plant your body cannot absorb and which  are hard to digest.  Your body does not digest fiber so it goes through your digestive tract and out of the body pretty much intact .

Dietary fiber is most often thought as something to either relieve or  prevent constipation, but it has other health benefits.   It may help weight control and may assist with reducing the likelihood of developing  heart disease or diabetes.

There are two types of dietary fiber.  Soluble fiber dissolves in water forming a gel like substance.  It is found in beans, peas, oats, avocados, berries, ripe bananas , barley, broccoli, carrots, psyllium, and flax seed.   Soluble fiber may help to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Insoluble fiber helps move materials through your digestive system so this type fiber may assist those suffering from constipation.  Foods which contain insoluble fiber include wheat bran, nuts, whole wheat flour, cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, potato skins, legumes, grapes and tomatoes.

Some foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.  As an example sweet potatoes have soluble fiber, but the skins have insoluble fiber.  The same is true of  plums or prunes, just to name a few.

High fiber foods may assist with weight control since they take longer to chew giving your body a chance to recognize it has had enough food.  Since it takes longer to eat, a smaller meal will feel like you have eaten a larger one.

The generally accepted daily amount of fiber required for adults is approximately 35 grams of fiber for men up to 50 years and 30 grams for men over 51 years.  For woman the range is approximately 25 grams up to 50 years of age and 20 grams for those older.  A word of caution.  If you have been eating a diet consisting of very little fiber do not increase your intake to recommended levels or higher all at once.  Gradually increase the fiber in your diet to avoid stomach or bowel problems caused by increasing fiber intake too much too fast.  It is always advisable to include drinking 6 or 8 glasses of water daily  for a healthy diet.

In addition to being available in delicious foods, fiber is also available in various supplement form.  As with any supplement be sure to check with your health care professional before use.